National e-bulletin – 30 September 2015

applianceYou will recall from our recent e-bulletin (07 September) that the Cultural Review into Essex Fire & Rescue Service highlighted some horrific practices that had occurred over past decades. In short, the service was at its lowest ebb where things could only improve.

We also made it clear that from our experiences, what was uncovered in Essex could have happened in other FRS across the country. In fact we have had a number of serving staff contact us stating that some of what they read in the report is happening in their local FRS right now.

The RFU has always fought for the equal treatment of all employees in the fire service, however, other organisations have clearly paid lip-service to such things as ‘Core Values’, ‘Equality and Diversity’ etc. let’s not forget, in a number of FRS, Retained firefighters still cannot apply for Wholetime posts especially above the level of a Watch Manager, in some services mixed crewing is still a no-go topic.

The local RFU Essex committee met earlier this week and invited both the Acting Chief Fire Officer and the Fire Authority Chair to their meeting and to their credit both attended and took part in extremely positive discussions for over two hours. This is how industrial relations should and can work, if there is a will by the local employers to fully engage with all unions not just one.

For too long employers have been afraid of another union, who in large areas run the local FRS, with nothing changing unless they says so, even at the expense of real improvements for staff and service delivery. This type of arrangement mirrors what was happening across the country in the 1970s rather than the 21st century.

The stakeholders in Essex have a fantastic opportunity to create something different, an emergency service where its employees are truly valued, respected and listened to. There is no doubt that other FRS will be watching the developments in Essex very closely because if they get it right, Essex could be used as the catalyst for other services to change the culture in their local service accordingly.

We will keep you posted on developments in Essex and the local committee has asked that if anyone wishes to discuss the changes that are taking place, to contact the RFU Secretary, James Collins via email.

Future Collaboration

The government’s consultation paper on ‘Emergency Services Collaboration’ is underway. The measures being consulted upon are:

  • introducing a new duty on all three emergency services to actively consider collaboration opportunities with one another to improve efficiency and effectiveness;
  • enabling Police and Crime Commissioners to take on the duties and responsibilities of fire and rescue authorities, where a local case is made;
  • where a Police and Crime Commissioner takes on the responsibilities of a fire and rescue authority, enabling him or her to create a single employer for police and fire staff, facilitating the sharing of back office functions and streamlining management;
  • in areas where a Police and Crime Commissioner has not become responsible for fire and rescue services, enabling them to have representation on their local fire and rescue authority; and
  • abolishing the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and giving the Mayor of London direct responsibility for the fire and rescue service in London, as will be the case in Greater Manchester.

The proposals have wide ranging implications so it is important that our response is measured and takes into account the direct and indirect consequences of any of these changes. If you have a view please let us know and your contribution will be fed into the process.

Modified Scheme – Tax Refunds

The options exercise to join the Modified Pension Scheme is drawing to a close with a deadline of 30 September imminent. Over the past few months the RFU has been able to assist members from across the UK and our intervention has led to a number of members (and past members) gaining access to the modified scheme after previously being informed by their FRS that they were not eligible.

There still remains an ongoing issue relating to claiming back tax relief for historical pension contributions. Guidance is still awaited from DCLG both as to how tax relief is claimed retrospectively and how far back such claims can go.

As soon as we can obtain some clarity on this matter we will advise members accordingly.

Member Benefits

In addition to the array of legal advice and support the RFU offers their members, we are keen to provide ‘positive’ member benefits as often as we can.

Thanks to our partnership with Hotpoint, we can offer members a further 10% off, via a discount voucher code which is in addition to the existing discount of up to 30% on all product appliances (Whirlpool, Hotpoint and Indesit appliances) throughout October.

With the increased product range it will give our members further choice when buying domestic appliances.

Members will still receive FREE delivery and FREE uplift of the old appliance and will be able to select the most convenient date of delivery when placing the order.

Remember, from 01 October, you will be able to use the discount code (redeemed at the checkout) ‘WELCOME10’ and automatically receive a further 10% saving on the product prices.

Once you have obtained your unique code from RFU HQ you will be able to access the products on offer.