National Update

FRSA National Update

19 December 2023

Firefighters at risk of losing jobs across the country

In recent weeks at least four fire and rescue services have indicated that they are looking to reduce, or in the case of Warwickshire, entirely remove all of the On-Call firefighter posts in the county. These proposals are being presented by services as the ‘restructuring’ of resources. While we fully understand the need for any organisation to review its crewing arrangements, the argument put forward for these proposals is that the On-Call duty system is failing and that there needs to be a shift towards bolstering the Wholetime establishment, which guarantees an emergency response.

The FRSA fundamentally disagrees with this view. The real reason why On-Call availability is poor in some areas, is down to a failure in management, locally and nationally to evolve with changes in society and identify suitable opportunities that would allow the On-Call duty system to flourish.

For far too long all we have heard from senior leaders is talk of the reviews that are being undertaken at a local and national level to improve recruitment and retention of On-Call staff, yet very rarely are these recommendations followed through. This is due to a number of factors, poor leadership, a lack of a medium and long-term strategy, constant turnover of middle and senior managers, lack of direction from the government and the LGA but more importantly, a complete lack of understanding of how the On-Call duty system works.

In Warwickshire, the Chief Fire Officer, Ben Brook, who was appointed in 2021 came from West Midlands and until his appointment, had no exposure to On-Call firefighters. CFO Brook proposals include, removing ALL of its On-Call firefighters, replacing them with part-time firefighters and surge teams, which will be used, according to the service’s own plans, approximately four times in five years. Plans also include moving Wholetime back to the old fashioned, 2-2-4 shift system at additional expense. Even according to their own data these proposals are ill-founded, and have generated considerable anger amongst local people, let alone our members.

Consultation on the proposals is now open and runs until 10 March 2024.

In Cambridgeshire, the senior leadership team are proposing to close three On-Call stations, Kimbolton, Manea and Sutton again principally due to poor availability.

A public consultation on the proposals is now scheduled to open in January.  

Cheshire are proposing a number of crewing changes, all of which are to the detriment of On-Call across Runcorn, Winsford, Northwich, Macclesfield, Knutsford and Stockton Health. The plans also propose to increase the Wholetime establishment.

Consultation opened in October 2023 and will run until 02 January 2024.

The leadership team in Hereford and Worcester are looking to replace On-Call appliances at Bromyard, Droitwich, Hereford, Leominster, Malvern, Redditch, Worcester and Wyre Forest. The plans also propose to increase the Wholetime establishment.

A public consultation on the proposals is now scheduled to open in January.

Overview

The above proposals demonstrate the value of union membership, giving confidence to members that the FRSA will do all it can to oppose redundancies within the On-Call duty system.  We will not hide behind the argument as to whether proposals are a downgrade of fire cover or grey book compliant before coming to the aid of our members.

We are committed to supporting and representing our members in their time of need.

If you are not affected by these proposals, just remember, it could be you and your station at risk next.

You can join the FRSA via our website.

White Paper Response

The Government finally published its response to the public consultation process that took place back in the summer of 2022, regarding the draft White Paper.

The FRSA broadly welcomes the response, particularly the commitment to review the national negotiating machinery which is currently a major barrier to reforming the sector. However, we are concerned that the government is giving the NJC a period of grace to come up with an alternative model, which in our view, that is the equivalent of asking turkeys to cook Christmas dinner.

One of the major causes for stagnation in the fire and rescue service is the lack of leadership and direction within government, constantly expecting the sector to modernise itself. This approach has been tried for years and has proven unsuccessful. Until politicians take a deep concerted interest in fire, we are concerned that the NJC, LGA and NFCC will continue to argue for the status-quo, allowing for the sector to decline further and fail to take opportunities, such as broadening the role which would reinvigorate the fire service and its staff.

We will continue to lobby for meaningful progress to be made, but we are in no doubt that challenges from other stakeholders will stand in the way of meaningful reform.

Tristan Ashby
Chief Executive Officer

Listen to our Podcast

Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast, Priority Message. The most recent episodes talk about the second options exercise for eligible On-Call firefighters to access later this year.

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Our offer to you

This information leaflet is available encapsulating the key benefits of being a member of the FRSA. The document is available via our website and we would recommend that this is shared with your colleagues on station.