National and local officials met with the new principle management team in East Sussex last week to discuss various matters concerning the Retained Duty System (RDS).
While not wishing to go into detail, we can confirm that the meeting was extremely productive and suggests that overall, the future for Retained firefighters is positive. The local RFU committee in East Sussex will continue to liaise with principle managers on a regular basis to the benefit of our members.
We will continue to meet with a number of principle managers around the country this year, emphasising the importance of recruitment and retention of RDS staff and how we can help locally. If you would like us to visit your service please contact RFU HQ.
We have been replying to a number of draft Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMPs) over recent weeks (Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Cumbria, Norfolk & Suffolk) that have included proposals to close Retained stations, remove Retained frontline appliances and the cuts to Retained posts.
Such proposals are often ill-thought through, lack any direct connection with ‘Best Value’ (despite being made under the guise of saving money) and politically motivated. Our written responses include alternative proposals providing greater savings, keep fire stations open and maintain frontline appliances, all without raising taxes.
We have also been lobbying and meeting with local councillors and MPs and will continue to do so until decisions are finalised. In our view, to ensure credibility our opposition has to be measured, costed and viable. What we will not do is to claim publically that we are opposed to such proposals but do little else.
You may be aware of recent proposed cuts in Leicestershire that were regularly making headlines in the local newspapers. Interestingly enough, a freedom of information request confirmed that the RFU was the only union to make any written submission within the consultation process.
Good representation is more than just opposing cuts in the media!!
Shift in priorities?
We note that another union has recently reviewed its national structure, choosing to remove its Executive Officers with responsibility for Retained firefighters, Control Staff and Officers, with the focus now appearing to be aimed at only Wholetime firefighters.
Alternatively, the RFU’s commitment remains the same, being solely dedicated to represent Retained/On-Call firefighters across the country.
The Prime Minister recently confirmed that Ministerial responsibility for fire and rescue policy will transfer to the Home Office from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Responsibility for fire and rescue policy will move from the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Home Office with immediate effect.
The Rt Hon Mike Penning MP will assume responsibility for the portfolio becoming Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mr Penning will take over from Mark Francois, the previous Fire Minister.
This change, while not a surprise considering the recent government consultation paper on ‘Emergency Services Collaboration’, has come much sooner than we had anticipated. There is a large element of the unknown in terms of what this change will mean in both the short and long term for both our members and the fire service as a whole in England. However, one thing is certain, there will be further collaboration between emergency services in the future and we expect changes locally where some Police and Crime Commissioners will take over the responsibility of their local fire service.
The new minister will wish to meet with stakeholders in the near future and we will, as with all new Fire Ministers, be keen to promote the benefits of the expansion and more effective utilisation of operational personnel working the Retained Duty System (RDS), we believe we will be the only organisation pushing this agenda.
We will provide members with an update following the meeting with the new Fire Minister.
RDS Conference 2016
Just a reminder that the CFOA RDS Conference will be taking place on 3 and 4 March in Lincolnshire and will include a presentation from the RFU.
We hope that services across the UK will send delegates to the conference with a view to exchanging ideas and good practice relating to the recruitment and retention of Retained/On-Call firefighters.
The RFU will be launching its new member benefits package (RFU Rewards) next week which will provide members with the opportunity to access a varied suite of offers that will be worth the membership fee alone.
Look out for further details of how to access these deals soon!
Acting Chief Executive Officer