Doctoral student writing

Governance and Management of Emergency Services in the UK

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2018
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


The management of Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) is one of the most under-researched public services, in both the UK and elsewhere (Wankhade and Murphy 2012). This is despite FRSs being a universal international service, delivered by central and local governments, by private sector providers, and by third sector organisations and volunteer services in different parts of the world.

Between 2010 and 2015 the Coalition Government in England initiated governance and budgetary reforms designed for deficit reduction through changes to the spending review, budget, and audit and accountability arrangements (Lowndes and Pratchett, 2012). Reforms such as the Localism Act 2011, have given Fire and Rescue Authorities greater autonomy over spending decisions but not local revenue generation, which has had significant implications for service configuration and resource allocations within Fire and Rescue Services, both locally in Nottinghamshire and nationally.

In order to assess these initiatives the National Audit Office commissioned an overview of the current state of the audit and assurance regimes for Fire and Rescue Services in the context of the continuing austerity of the last five years (Ferry and Murphy 2015). This report, and the subsequent NAO report (2015), highlighted the effects of austerity on the arrangements for governance (at national and local levels); public accountability (including audit, performance management and regulation), and transparency (openness of data and analysis capability). It concluded that the risks to achieving Value for Money had increased, while the assurance to the public about the economic efficient and effective expenditure of public money had deteriorated.

More recently, the Conservative government has enacted significant changes to the governance, scrutiny and strategic oversight of fire services with proposals for transferring responsibility to the service to both Police and Crime Commissioners and Elected Mayors in different parts of the country (Home Office 2016).  In contrast since devolution, Scotland has successfully merged its’ eight former FRS into a single ‘nationalised’ service, generating substantial savings with an improvement in performance while at the same time having no detrimental impact on the public during the merger period (Taylor, Murphy and Greenhalgh 2017, Audit Scotland 2015).  Meanwhile the pattern of risks to businesses communities and individuals is continues to change not least because of environmental and technological changes.

In this rapidly changing policy and organisational landscapes NBS are interested in any aspect of management research relating to the current or future management of the service and its key collaborators. We are also interested in comparing the governance, leadership, structure and operational performance of Fire and Rescue Services in the UK with the service in selected international jurisdictions.

The study will use a mixed methods approach involving both quantative and qualitative research, and will benefit from access to a number of existing databases. The research team have greatly benefitted from close co-operation with local Fire and Rescue Services, with the Chief Fire Officers Association, the Fire Service College, the Local Government Association and the National Audit Office.


Alford, J. and O’Flynn, J 2012 Rethinking Public Service Delivery: Managing with external providers Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Audit Scotland 2015. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Edinburgh. Audit Scotland.
Ewen, S. 2010 Fighting Fires: The creation of the British Fire Service, 1800-1978. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Ferry, L. & Murphy, P. 2015. A Comparative Review of Financial Sustainability, Accountability and Transparency of Local Public Service Bodies in England under Austerity. NTU.
Hood, C. 2010. Accountability and Transparency: Siamese twins, matching parts, awkward couple? West European Politics, 33 (5): 989-1009.
Lowndes, V. & Pratchett, L. 2012. Local governance under the Coalition Government: austerity, localism and the big society, Local Government Studies, Vol. 38 (1), pp. 21-40.
Mackie, R. 2013 Managing Scotland’s Public Services Edinburgh W Green
Murphy, P. and Greenhalgh, K. 2013 Performance management in fire and rescue services, Public Money and Management, Vol. 33 (3), pp. 225-232.
National Audit Office 2015. Financial Sustainability of fire and rescue services HC 491. Session 2015-2016.  5th November 2015.
Taylor, L., Murphy, P. and Greenhalgh, K., 2018. Scottish fire and rescue services reform 2010–2015. In: P. Murphy and K. Greenhalgh, eds., Fire and rescue services: leadership and management perspectives. London: Springer, pp. 191-205.
Van Thiel S 2014 Research Methods in Public Administration and Public Management: An introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.
Wankheda, P. & Murphy, P. 2012. Bridging the theory and practice gap in emergency services research: the case for a new journal. International Journal of Emergency Services Vol 1 (1) pp 4-9.


Professor Peter Murphy

Dr Russ Glennon

Entry qualifications

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. A research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) must be submitted as part of the application.

For more information please visit the NTU Doctoral School – Research Degrees webpages.

How to apply

How to apply

Applications are accepted all year round.

Download an application form here.
Please make sure you take a look at our application guidance notes before making your application.

Further information on how to apply can be found on this page.

Fees and funding

This is a self-funded PhD opportunity.

Guidance and support

Further information on guidance and support can be found on this page.

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Peter Murphy