Change of address: Fire Minister speaks out for first time: in his maiden speech to the Fire Service Minister Jim Fitzpatrick outlined his ideas at the LGA Forum on June 17. This is an extracted version of the speech.(Ministerial Speech)

I WOULD LIKE TO START ON a personal note. Before I became an MP I was a firefighter and a senior official in the FBU for over 20 years. It is a record I am very proud of and I think you can safely assume I learnt a bit about the Service.

Let me say this,. I joined the Fire Service for the same reason every other firefighter does--a determination and commitment to save lives. The Service today is just as dedicated to that aim and I know it is one shared by everyone in this room. Your goal my goal and the goal of all firefighters is to reduce fire deaths and injuries.

As a Minister, one of my key aims is to move the Service forward so that it truly looks, feels and delivers what is needed for a 21st century Service. An important part of this is giving staff the skills they need.

The government has supported the introduction of the Integrated Personal Development System. This represents a complete change of attitude to training and development. It introduces a competence-based approach and sets clear national performance standards. Help with meeting those standards is built into the system. We have invested over 4 million [pounds sterling] to help develop this and to provide support and guidance to authorities as they implement it.

The workforce should also reflect the community it serves. This is not only about fairness and equality, it is also about effectiveness. If the Service reflects the community it serves it will understand and work better with that community. The process of cultural change has started, but we need to go much further. We need organisations which are truly inclusive and welcoming, where the core values have a real meaning for all members of staff and are demonstrated every day by all. …

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