National Update

FRSA National Update

06 February 2024

On-Call Onslaught

The New Year has not been a positive start for On-Call firefighters in a number of services across England that are proposing to make dozens of On-Call firefighters redundant:

Warwickshire

Chief Fire Officer Ben Brook is looking to remove ALL of Warwickshire’s On-Call firefighters (approx. 120) and replace them with 64 part-time posts, a ‘surge’ team of 128 personnel (responding on average to four calls every five years) and approx. 30 more Wholetime firefighters.

Cheshire

Cheshire’s Chief Fire Officer Alex Waller is proposing to:

Convert four On-Call fire engines (Runcorn, Winsford, Northwich and Macclesfield) to full-time crewing during weekdays, resulting in an increase of 20 full-time firefighter posts and a loss of 55 On-Call firefighter posts.

Convert Knutsford’s fire engine from On-Call to day crewing. Resulting in the loss of 15 On-Call firefighter posts and an increase of nine full-time firefighter posts.

Hereford and Worcester

Chief Fire Officer Jon Pryce in Hereford and Worcester is proposing the:

‘removal of eight On-Call fire engines (from multi-pump fire stations);

increase Wholetime workforce numbers to provide more on duty firefighters;’

Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland is proposing the:

‘…re-distributing operational resources from the identified three lowest risk areas of Sutton, Manea and Kimbolton to the higher risk areas of St Neots and Ely, by increasing the number of wholetime firefighters to provide guaranteed fire cover during the daytime, seven days a week (St Neots and Ely are currently day-crewed Monday to Friday only).’

By re-distributing, the service means, close three On-Call stations.

Summary

Overall, the above proposals demonstrate a clear message from some Chief Fire Officers (who are part of the National Fire Chiefs Council) that rather than attempt to tackle local recruitment and retention issues with their On-Call establishment in certain areas, they are making a conscious decision to increase their Wholetime establishments at an increased cost to the taxpayer.

The FRSA is deeply concerned that On-Call firefighters are bearing the brunt of the failings of management. On the flip-side of the argument that the On-Call model is broken and not fit for the 21st century is Nottinghamshire, a service that is evidencing through their social media platform that achieving 100% availability of their On-Call resources can be achieved.

Our responses to these public consultations will be formulated by collating the views of our members, using factual data relating to service costs, call levels/types and risk. We will also be requesting details of the initiatives undertaken by the services to tackle the difficulties in recruiting and retaining local On-Call staff (if any), and comparing with our own suite of proposals.

We will continue to be advocates of the On-Call model as we have since the union’s creation back in 1976. If you are an On-Call firefighter and not a member of the FRSA you might need to check if your subscriptions are being well spent with other representative bodies.

Wayne Brown

News broke last week of the sad loss of Chief Fire Officer Wayne Brown of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service. The FRSA would like to offer our condolences to Mr Brown’s family, close friends and work colleagues.

South Wales Report

The independent Culture Review into South Wales Fire and Rescue Service was published at the beginning of the year. The 185-page report makes for grim reading, and in her statement in parliament, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn MS, called the report ‘damning’, ‘shocking and horrific’.

Chief Fire Officer for South Wales, Huw Jakeway, who had held the role since 2012 and who had been offered and accepted a pay rise of £12,000 by the Fire Authority during the period the review was taking place, immediately informed the Fire Authority of his intention to ‘retire’ having completed 32 years’ service.

This is yet another report funded by the taxpayer, highlighting unacceptable behaviours within a fire and rescue service that was tolerated by senior officers. Our exposure to services across the country would suggest that there are more services that if independently scrutinised, would produce similar findings. The key question in this is what happens next. Who is going to take responsibility in addressing this trend because the lack of action currently witnessed at local and national level is intolerable.  

We will continue to play our role in exposing such behaviours by working with services and third-parties. If you need to speak to someone in confidence about your experiences please contact your local FRSA representative or FRSA HQ.

Second Options Exercise

The administrative process of the second options exercise is now underway in England (Scotland and Wales are yet to make the necessary legislative changes but we expect this to take place this year). If you have not received communications from your current or former fire and rescue service employer and you believe you are eligible to take part in the second options exercise, please contact FRSA HQ for advice and support on this matter.

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.

The Podcast can be accessed for free, via Spotify, Apple and Google.

Download our App

Access the latest news, information, and services through the new FRSA App.

The App is available via the Apple App store and Google Play store and is FREE, just search FRSA and download.

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.