By Peter Tremayne
Cornwall’s fire and rescue service still “requires improvement,” according to the latest report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectors.
The label is actually an improvement on last year’s verdict that Cornwall’s service was inadequate.
The latest report, published yesterday and only the second of its kind, says Cornwall is still inadequate when it comes to responding to fires and other emergencies, but is now in need of improvement in terms of overall effectiveness, understanding risks and protecting the public. The service is rated “good” for preventing fires and staff also score highly.
The Inspectors’ report is often controversial because it measures fire services according to a set of benchmarks which are particularly difficult to standardise for rural areas. Last year, Cornwall's fire chiefs responded angrily to their "inadequate" tag.
The Inspectors last year set out an action plan which Cornwall Council now has to follow. The Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service operates against a background of weak finances and relatively high cost-per-head of firefighters.
Curiously, Cornwall is one of the services to employ very few women firefighters – only 2.9% of Cornwall’s firefighters are women. In Gloucestershire, the figure is 15.6%.
Cornwall also scores poorly for the ratio of black and minority ethnic firefighters, even when measured against the baseline percentages for the population as a whole.