Who are the Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service?
The respective communities of Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin vary greatly and as a consequence place very different demands on Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
SFRS - People
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service employs 635 members of staff who operate from 23 strategically located sites across Shropshire. The Service has four whole-time stations located in Wellington, Shrewsbury, Telford and Tweedale, 22 retained stations, Service headquarters in Shrewsbury and a training centre in Telford.
|214*||Firefighters Wholetime Duty System||Firefighters and officers are included in the establishment figure. A shift pattern is worked by watch personnel.|
|324*||Firefighters Retained Duty System||Retained staff are called in when required to attend emergency incidents.|
The control staff work shift arrangements to take emergency calls and dispatch Service resources to incidents.
|78*||Support service staff||
Non-operational staff provide a wide range of technical and specialist support.
*Employee figures as of 10 June 2008
Equipment consists of a fleet of approximately 46 operational vehicles and special appliances including aerial ladder platforms, a rescue boat and various pod-based units located at Shrewsbury and Telford
In the fiscal year 2006/07 the Service responded to 7,292 incidents of which:
- 1,134 were small fires
- 1,686 property fires
- 1,206 calls for assistance for vehicle and water related rescues
The remaining 3,266 were false alarms or other calls.
Shropshire - Summary of local factors
The county of Shropshire is England's largest inland county occupying approximately 3,490 square kilometres. The English counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire and the Welsh counties of Powys and Clwyd bound the county.
The geographical county of Shropshire is one of England's most beautiful and historic areas with magnificent countryside and historic market towns such as Ludlow which has in excess of 500 listed buildings. The county is home to Ironbridge Gorge which is universally accepted as the birthplace of the industrial revolution.
The biggest change to the county's administrative boundaries took place in April 1998 when the geographical county of Shropshire was split into the administrative county of Shropshire and the unitary authority of Telford & Wrekin.
The areas covered by Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council are in many ways different.
Shropshire Council covers a large area – some 3,197 square kilometres and has a population of approximately 287,900. The area administered is essentially rural in nature and almost one third is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. Approximately 55% of the population is classed as urban and 45% as rural.
Shropshire has a higher percentage of retired people and lower percentages of children and adults of working age. Because of the rural nature of Shropshire (approximately 80% of land use is agriculture), a higher proportion of residents work in agriculture compared to the national average.
In contrast the area of Telford & Wrekin is among one of the fastest growing local authority areas in Europe. The majority of the population lives in the rapidly growing new town of Telford. Telford was originally designated as a 'New Town' in 1963 and recent decades have seen a remarkable growth in industry, commerce and population in the area, which covers 290 square kilometres. It does retain, however, some concentrated pockets of social deprivation, which are being addressed.
Telford & Wrekin has a population of approximately 161,000 and a significant manufacturing base providing 30% of all jobs in the area.
The main trunk road running from east to west is A5/M54 which runs from Wolverhampton (to the east of the county) across to Telford, before heading North West into Wales. This is an important artery and the corridor where most of Shropshire's modern commerce and industry is found, notably in Telford.
The A49 is the main arterial road which runs the entire length of the county from the market town of Whitchurch in the north bisecting Shrewsbury and leaving the county on its southern border into Herefordshire.
The primary river that flows through the county is the river Severn which enters from the Welsh border in the West. The river virtually encircles the town of Shrewsbury before flowing south through Ironbridge and the ancient market town of Bridgnorth before leaving the county on it southern border with Worcestershire.
The biggest change to the county's administrative boundaries took place in April 1998 when the geographical county of Shropshire was split up into the administrative county of Shropshire and the unitary authority of Telford and Wrekin. Telford and Wrekin separated from the rest of the county to take over the administration of the majority of its local government services with Shropshire County Council administering the remaining predominantly rural areas of the county.
Financial standing and challenges
The Government are fulfilling the promises made in their 2003 White Paper 'Our Fire and Rescue Service,' to re-distribute fire and rescue service funding to better match risk. The latest Local Government Finance Settlement has seen quite substantial changes to the way in which fire and rescue authorities are funded. Changes have included new financial arrangements for fire-fighters' pensions, changes to indicators caused by the elimination of national standards of fire cover and changes to fire safety law. The changes also recognise the increasing role of community fire safety work and the higher risk faced by those over 65 years of age.
Despite the fact that the proposed introduction of a fixed element for sparsity was not included within the funding changes, Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority should have received a better than normal settlement amounting to an unprecedented 18.2% increase in grant. Unfortunately, however, a large proportion of the benefits achieved by the Authority were lost due to 'flooring' and 'previous years' adjustments.' For 2006-07 the proposed 18.2% increase in grant was reduced by almost £1 million to 3.3%, predominantly to ensure that no other fire and rescue authority received an increase of less than 1.5%.
It is appreciated that the floor element serves an important function in guaranteeing that no authority receives less than a minimum increase in formula grant support from central government. It is, none-the-less, painful that the public of Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin will continue to be asked to pay one of the very highest levels of precept in the whole United Kingdom for their fire and rescue service, due almost entirely to the fact that many years of Government under-funding of our own Service will still take many years to correct.
Despite these problems, the Fire Authority continues to make the best use of their limited resources for the benefits of the public. We build upon a base where our services have recently been independently judged as 'Good' by the Audit Commission, who also commented that despite comparatively low budgets and cost per head of population, Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority has achieved 'good' overall performance. We have demonstrated for many years our commitment to 'Putting Shropshire's Safety First' and have clear performance information confirming an ongoing reduction in the risks posed to the public we serve. We still have much to do, however, and over the coming years we intend to finance vital investment in our retained service, in community fire safety in rural Shropshire and, where necessary, in the relocation of our wholetime (permanently staffed) fire stations to deliver even greater risk reduction.
Partnerships and Community Engagement
The Government's vision for neighbourhood renewal is that within 10-12 years no one should be seriously disadvantaged by where they live. To achieve this all elements of regeneration must be prioritised; economic prosperity, safer communities, higher quality education, decent safe housing and better health services. If the geographic area covered by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is to be successful in tacking these issues it is clear that effective partnership working and sound engagement is necessary.
Recognising that fire and rescue authorities have a significant part to play in all the Government's fight against disadvantage, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has been a key player in partnerships for many years. More recently we have become focused on the more efficient and effective partnerships thus allowing us to use our resources in a more productive manner.
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service representatives with some of the partnerships we work with: START, West Mercia Police, Community Council of Shropshire and Bridgnorth District Community Safety Partnership
Following our detailed environmental analysis in 2005 it was identified that we needed to be local in the way we delivered our protection and prevention services. Learning from the engagement our retained duty staff has with their local communities we began a process of localising our wholetime service delivery. Mirroring our partners' approaches to this we have started devolving delivery and management of community safety to smaller 'cluster' areas in Telford and Shrewsbury.
In striving to secure maximum benefits from the local engagement of Fire Authority Members we have also set up a Local Liaison Panel which enables Members in every constituent Authority and local borough and district council to have regular communication with their local Group Manager and frequent joint meetings to discuss local issues with Executive Brigade Management. Additionally we are joining with our colleagues in the Police on the 'Partners and Community Together' meetings to further this localism theme. However, as has been found throughout local government it will take some time to increase local engagement.
The local risks within Shropshire are diverse ranging from dwellings in remote, rural locations to major industrial centres and significant heritage properties.
The county has an extensive road transport network with the majority of 'A' classified road forming a link between the West Midlands and North Wales, and a number of lesser roads used by local transport to rural businesses. The rail network also carries heavy commercial traffic. Shropshire is home to a numerous waterways including the River Severn and Union Canal systems predominantly used for recreational activity.
The main commercial centres of the county are located in Telford and Shrewsbury, with smaller market towns having thriving community facilities for trade and leisure. Telford, formerly an industrial new town continues to expand as a commercial venue with its motorway link into the industrial heartlands of the West Midlands, and is home to many large multi-national technology manufacturers and smaller support businesses. Shropshire is also home to Royal Air Force Cosford and Shawbury, the latter being the armed forces' central helicopter training school. The Army also houses Europe's largest stores depot at Donnington, Telford and 143 West Midlands Brigade is based in Shrewsbury.
Shropshire – A county of contrasts
Shropshire is a county of contrasts with rapid industrial and commercial development and dense pockets of population with are surrounded by large areas of open countryside. Modern high technology developments sit close to historic sites of national importance; such are the challenges of providing a service for Shropshire.
The Shropshire market town of Whitchurch, grassland fires on Haughmond Hill and industry in Telford