Meeting with new fire minister
Last week the RFU met with the new fire minister, Mark Francois MP. We are pleased to report that it was a very productive meeting and it was clear to us that the new minister is very much supportive of staff working on the retained duty system.
During the meeting we raised a number of issues including; governance of the fire service, recruitment and retention of retained firefighters and the opportunities to expand the role of retained firefighters.
As the new fire minister has a military background within the Territorial Army (as did the previous minister Penny Mordaunt MP) we believe that he has a good understanding of the logistics and commitment required to be a retained firefighter.
We will continue to exchange ideas with the new fire minister and hope to develop positive outcomes for the RDS.
Independent Review of Terms and Conditions
You may recall that the previous minister commissioned a review of the conditions of service for chief fire officers and firefighters, to identify potential barriers to reform, improvement and efficiency of fire and rescue services.
The report, which was presented to the minister back in February, was put on hold due to the general election. Now that ministerial appointments have been settled, we hope that the report will soon be made public and contains the far reaching recommendations to provide the platform for much needed reform of fire services. While this report specifically relates to fire services in England, we anticipate that it will have a knock-on effect to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We strongly believe that the current model of governance does not necessarily provide the required level of accountability specifically in terms of supporting staff within the RDS. Fire and rescue services can be failing with large numbers of appliances being off the run and nobody seems to take responsibility.
Reform of governance needs to provide transparency to the public of what level of service is being provided on a daily basis. A ‘fire’ version of Ofsted that has more independence and greater teeth than the previous inspectorate had would be a good starting point!!
RDS working group
The RDS working group met in Glasgow last week, to discuss a number of matters with the main focus being on the recruitment of retained firefighters. While not all fire and rescue services were represented at the meeting those who were there presented some good practice. A collaboration between Lincolnshire, Devon and Somerset and Oxfordshire has produced a website dedicated to recruit on-call firefighters. The website is complemented by various social media platforms, the details of this website can be found here.
While the meeting identified good practice it is clear that there is still much work to be done if an adequate number of retained firefighters are going to be recruited long term into all fire and rescue services. However, it looks like a number of services are finally on the right track, so it would appear that the penny has dropped!
The future – your future
We believe that as call levels continue to reduce the role of a firefighter will need to expand into other areas such as social care and other non-criminal emergencies. This has already been happening for a number of years as co-responding has been utilized more and more, exchange towards an expensive roll has to be embraced by all within the service, which in turn will raise awareness of the retained firefighter and aid recruitment and retention.
Rather than push against change the RFU will proactively work with any Fire and Rescue Service to the benefit of those working the retained duty system and welcome contact on this matter from all services.
Where do you fit in?
Change in the fire service is an inevitability, the question is whether it is for the better. Those who know what the RDS needs for it to be robust yet flexible and have long term sustainability are the people who work it. If the direction that is taken is left to others, as has been the case in the past, matters could deteriorate further.
The RFU will provide the opportunity to for your voice to be heard at the highest level, if you want and are able to play a part in shaping the future we want to hear from you. You can provide your contact details via RFU HQ here.