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    Stating the obvious: evaluating the state of public assurance in fire and rescue authorities in England

    Spencer, T, Hayden, J, Murphy, P and Glennon, R ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0147-3507 (2019) Stating the obvious: evaluating the state of public assurance in fire and rescue authorities in England. International Journal of Emergency Services, 8. pp. 20-33. ISSN 2047-0894

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    Purpose: To examine the form, content and reporting arrangements of ’statements of assurance’ required from Fire and Rescue Authorities in England since their introduction in 2012 and identify potential improvements for future implementation. Design/methodology/approach: A multi-method approach was adopted which commenced with an analysis of the current official guidance, an exploration of the accessibility and structure of the current statements produced followed by a review of those statements through a desk based analysis complemented by a series of elite interviews. Findings: The current guidance was found to be too broad and open to interpretation to be fit for purpose. This has led to some significant inconsistencies in reporting, limiting the statements’ usefulness to key users and stakeholders. Most authorities provided some form of report on their website but variations in respect of length, structure, name and content, limit their value. The research found that 30% of authorities did not have an up to date statement available online. These findings were supported by the series of interviews. The result has led to confusion amongst authorities as to the statement’s role and the risk of it being perceived as a ’box ticking’ exercise rather than a real contribution to public assurance. Practical implications: This paper provides potential lessons which could be adopted to inform future guidance in respect of the preparation and publication of the statement of assurance and its role in the wider public assurance regime for fire and rescue authorities. If adopted, these would improve the accountability, transparency and public assurance of Fire and Rescue Authorities which is a key objective of their governance arrangements. Originality/value: The statement of assurance has only been a requirement of Authorities since the current National Framework for Fire and Rescue was published in July 2012 and has not been subject to independent research since its inception. The government have recently issued a consultation on a new national framework, but this proposes no changes to the statements of assurance. The findings will therefore be of value to the government, the Fire and Rescue Sector and the recently appointed regulators for the service Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

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