Government wants On-Call firefighters to have bigger role in the future

Last week Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, responded on behalf of the government to the Knight Review, ‘Facing the Future’.

Mr Pickles made the point that fire prevention is key and will remain the number one priority working in partnership with other public sector bodies. Adding that in order to be a modern and flexible fire service, there will be an increase in On-Call firefighters.

The RFU takes the view that if this is to be a successful transition, it will require new, more modern ways of thinking and without doubt a greater level of understanding and cooperation between fire and rescue services and the primary employers of the On-Call workforce. We certainly welcome the comments regarding an ‘attractive, modern employment offer, with the right support and incentives for employers’. Whilst it is assumed that there are efficiency savings to be gained, tailored and focused, support on this duty system is long overdue.

Mention was also made of greater collaboration between other blue light services and again, we believe this has to be the way forward. Ask any On-Call firefighter who balances the pressures of holding down a full-time job with the needs of being able to carry out such an important fire service role, they will most likely say ‘Just make it easier for me to do both jobs, I’ll leave the high level stuff for others to sort out’.

The government response echoes the sentiments contained in our recent survey relating to Retained Recruitment and Retention. Our members have, over the last 10 years, seen numerous restrictions placed on their ability to perform their role and it is imperative that attitudes by service management towards On-Call staff soften, so that the goodwill and flexibility returns, which has always been the workforce’s biggest asset.

We also welcome the news that DCLG is commissioning an independent review of the conditions of service for all fire and rescue staff and look forward to making a full contribution to the review on our members’ behalf.

To further support transformation in the fire and rescue sector the Department intends to commission an independent review of the conditions of service for all fire and rescue staff and the way in which they are negotiated and decided.

Firefighters are willing to put their lives on the line every day and they deserve to work in an environment where expenditure is properly focused on front-line prevention and protection and on front-line response. To achieve this, fire and rescue authorities must review how they operate and how they deliver, and must embrace the many opportunities they have for change. Sir Ken Knight highlighted a number of challenges, from the need for more collaboration between fire and rescue authorities and the wider sector, to making the best use of on-call firefighters, to achieving the most cost efficient procurement. The government’s statement makes clear their intention to work with the sector to meet these challenges, and by doing so ensures that fire and rescue authorities continue to deliver the very best service to the public in the years to come.