Dear Daniel

Home Office Fire Incident Statistics and detailed fire and non-fire analyses

As you are aware, we recently completed our compliance check of the Home Office’s Fire and Rescue Incident statistics against the Code of Practice for Statistics. This review also covered two additional publications – detailed analysis of fires attended by fire and rescue services and detailed analysis of non-fire incidents.

Fire incident statistics were previously published by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), but transferred to the Home Office in 2016. In this time, public interest in fire incident data has increased, in light of high-profile incidents including the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire. Following constructive conversations with the lead statistician for these statistics, I am pleased to confirm that these statistics should continue to be designated as National Statistics.

During our review, we found a number of positives in the way that these statistics are produced and presented, which enhance their quality and value:

  • All of the statistical bulletins are well-presented. They are clear and easy to follow for less-experienced users, but also offer a good depth of insight and analysis for expert users as well.
  • The guidance and methodology information provided alongside the statistics is detailed and accessible. The statistics team has considered the level of assurance it has of the quality of the source data against our Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAAD) framework and is transparent about the quality of the statistics.
  • The fact that the non-fire incidents release was established in 2018 in response to user need demonstrates the team’s awareness of, and responsiveness to, changing user demands.
  • The Home Office’s recent move to publish the ad-hoc data requests it receives from users in order to increase the transparency of its processes is good to see. It is also good to hear that the team also considers where the results of these requests could be integrated into the main bulletin to add insight and address the wider user need.
  • The comparisons made with fire statistics produced by the devolved nations are helpful in adding insight and context to the statistics. Clear signposting is also given to statistics produced by the devolved nations for users who wish to explore these comparisons in greater detail.
  • We welcome the team’s plans to implement RAP (Reproductive Analytical Pipelines) for the publications later this year. Time savings that result from adopting a RAP approach mean that analytical time and skill can be better used to increase value for users.
  • We were pleased to hear of plans for a number of interesting developments to the statistics and potential upcoming projects using the data. We welcome the team’s plans to look more at the contextual background to fire incidents using, for example, the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, which will increase the insight obtained from the data.

We also identified some areas where we consider that the statistics could be further enhanced, in order to continue to meet the high standards required of National Statistics:

  • The Incidents Recording System (IRS) used to collect data on fire incidents, cannot be easily updated, which limits the capacity of the statistics to be kept relevant and slows down production processes for the team. We encourage you to look for ways to overcome these limitations in order to maximise the public value of fire data. Given that the IRS is a common source used to produce fire statistics in Wales and Scotland, you should work closely with the statisticians in those nations to help realise improvements for all.
  • Statisticians should consider how any uncertainty in the statistics might be more clearly communicated to users – who may not always refer to the methods documentation. We found that, while the information provided on quality assurance and revisions in the methodology document is helpful, it is not always clear in the bulletins that figures are ‘reported’ incidents and therefore subject to a degree of regular revision.
  • The team should make public its ongoing development plans for these statistics. Doing so would allow users the chance to input into development priorities and help the producer team understand which areas are of most interest to them. Engaging with users, for example through the Fire Statistics User Group, will increase the transparency of any developments to the statistics going forward.
  • To further enhance the insight and the public value of the statistics, the statistics team should consider signposting to published research which is based on granular IRS data that is provided to researchers through data sharing agreements.
  • As part of its future development priorities for these statistics, the team should explore how the IRS could be linked with other data sources, such as the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) database or vehicle registration plate information, in order to enhance the value of the data and help answer key questions.

I’d like to thank your team for their positive engagement on this review. We will continue to engage with the team over coming months – particularly with regard to efforts to obtain funding to replace the IRS.

Yours sincerely


Mark Pont

Assessment Programme Lead