In 2017/18 fire services carried out 49,423 audits, according to the figures. In 2010/11, services carried out 84,575 audits.
A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) released in December, which flagged the figures, said that a lack of resources and capacity was hampering inspections.
HMICFRS, which inspects all fire and rescue services in England, released the report following its first tranche of assessments of 14 services. It graded the standard of fire safety regulation as “good” at five; eight services require improvement; and one was judged as inadequate.
Legal responsibility for fire safety in buildings in England and Wales sits with a “responsible person”, such as the owner or managing agent. Fire services have responsibility for checking whether the responsible person has complied with their legal duties, such as whether they’ve carried out a fire risk assessment.
The HMICFRS report said there were common features across services graded as inadequate or requiring improvement. “Many do not have enough qualified inspectors to carry out their inspection programmes,” it said.
“Many of the protection teams we spoke to describe themselves as understaffed and under-resourced. All too often, fire and rescue services are not matching resources to the risks identified in their risk-based inspection programme.”
The number of audits carried out by fire and rescue services in Wales has remained fairly steady for the past four years, around 3,300 a year according to data from the Welsh Government, released in September. Fire safety in Scotland is governed by a separate legislative system.