Fire and rescue services in England could be merged or privatised to cut costs.
A fire service review by Sir Ken Knight found that call-outs have fallen by 40 per cent during the past decade, but expenditure and firefighter numbers have remained broadly the same.
The report, published today, suggests that having 46 separate fire authorities for England is not sensible, and changes to the way they are organised could save £200m.
Among options outlined in the report are merging fire authorities and, “following international example and privatising the provision of fire and rescue services”.
The report said the costs of providing a fire service were almost double in some parts of the country than in others.
Total cash reserves held by authorities increased from around £200m to £400m between 2008 and 2012. The report said the reserves should be used to pay for projects to reorganise services.
Sir Ken, who was a firefighter for 40 years, said more could be done to make the service more effective and efficient.
He said: “As I carried out this review I spoke with many services and found that there is wide spread variation in the running costs and management decisions. This presents a real opportunity to get to grips with what is happening and to save public money.
“Government and the 46 fire and rescue authorities should use it to decide how to transform the service to reflect the modern and safer world we live in today.”