18 July 2008
Audit Scotland has told fire and rescue authorities that they need to do more if they are to meet the requirements of Best Value, the system that requires public bodies to continually improve their services.
In a progress report published on July 17, the watchdog said some improvements in the services had been made since a national report on performance issued in March 2007.
These included putting more resources into community safety and fire prevention, and making councillors more aware of their governance and scrutiny responsibilities. There was better working with partners, and staff management had also improved with the development of personal appraisal systems. Positive steps had been taken to build a more diverse workforce.
But Audit Scotland said progress had been slower in other important areas. These included the need for the authorities to evaluate the impact and cost-effectiveness of their approaches to community safety work. More work was required to show that efficiency savings were being delivered.
Accounts Commission chair John Baillie said: 'Fire and rescue authorities are improving. But this report suggests that arrangements for Best Value, on which fire and rescue authorities will be assessed from 2009, are not generally as well developed as they are in most councils. There is a particular need for the government, the fire service and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to implement a coherent national approach to performance information.'