Fire and rescue authorities are “improvement authorities” for the purposes of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009 (the 2009 Measure). As improvement authorities they must make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the exercise of their functions. They must also set objectives for improving the exercise of their functions and publish information about their improvement and performance. The 2009 Measure also confers powers of collaboration on improvement authorities and requires them to consider, from time to time, whether their powers of collaboration would assist them in the discharge of their improvement duties.
Under section 8 of the 2009 Measure, the Welsh Ministers have powers to set performance indicators and performance standards, against which an improvement authority’s performance will be measured. Performance indicators have been set (in the Fire and Rescue Authorities (Performance Indicators (Wales) Order 2015). They include matters such as the total number of fires attended per 10,000 population, the number road traffic collisions attended per 10,000 population and the total numbers of deaths and injuries arising from fires per 100,000 population.
Under the 2009 Measure, the Auditor General for Wales must carry out an annual audit to determine whether a fire and rescue authority has discharged its improvement duties and acted in accordance and any relevant guidance issued by the Welsh Ministers. The Auditor General must also carry out assessment of whether the authority is likely during that financial year to comply with the requirements of the 2009 Measure (principally the duty to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement). The Auditor General must publish an annual report (called an annual improvement report) in respect of the audits and assessments carried out and may carry out special inspections in certain circumstances.
Fire and rescue authorities are required to publish information about their performance under section 15 of the 2009 Measure. In doing so they must use the improvement information they collect to compare their performance with their performance in previous years and, as far as reasonably practicable, with other fire and rescue authorities and other public authorities in Wales exercising similar functions.
Statutory guidance on the application of Part 1 of the 2009 Measure to Fire and Rescue Authorities is issued by the Welsh Ministers.
Under section 28 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, His Majesty may, by Order in Council, appoint inspectors for the purpose of obtaining information as to the way in which fire and rescue authorities are discharging their functions and technical matters relating to those functions. There is one inspector for Wales who is known as the Fire and Rescue Adviser and Inspector for Wales (see the Fire and Rescue Services (Appointment of Inspectors) (Wales) Order 2018). Assistant inspectors may be appointed for the same purpose by the Welsh Ministers. The Auditor General for Wales may make recommendations to an inspector as to how they should exercise their functions.
The fire and rescue authorities in Wales are subject to investigation by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.