Happy Christmas from the RFU
We would like to wish all our members a very happy and safe Christmas and to thank you for all your support this year. Being a member not only provides peace of mind for the individual should the unforeseen happen, but also makes available the necessary legal resources for other members to access, should they need to progress a personal injury claim or other legal challenge. This year alone we have secured hundreds of thousands of pounds via medical appeals, employment tribunal applications and negligence claims all of which demonstrate the importance of being a member of the RFU.
Following the agreement by the relevant fire authorities to combine Dorset and Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Services, the newly formed Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Authority has now granted the RFU full consultation and negotiation rights. Naturally we welcome this move as it reflects the partnership approach within local industrial relations that demonstrates by working with, rather than against local authorities, solutions can be identified and agreed to the benefit of all concerned.
Home Office takeover?
There was much media attention over the weekend regarding the potential for Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to take over local fire services and for the fire services in England to come under the Home Office rather than DCLG as is currently the case.
You may remember there was a consultation document published back in September of this year that posed a number of questions regarding PCCs and the possibility of them taking responsibility for local fire services if there was the will to do so locally.
Whether such a move takes place or not, we do not believe that the current model is fit for purpose. Members of fire authorities change on a whim without any say from the public, little if any data published to illustrate how FRS are performing and there is no responsibility taken by principle officers or elected members when a FRS is shown to be failing. One thing is certain, the status quo cannot remain!
The RFU have argued for many years that there is no real accountability for the performances of FRS and that some type of inspectorate (i.e. an ‘Ofsted style’ equivalent) is needed to provide the necessary scrutiny to identify where services are failing and need to improve. It is important to note that such a body need not be drawn from ex-CFOs.
Public Accounts Committee
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) took evidence on 26 November examining the impact of funding reductions on the effectiveness of fire and rescue services and the contents of the National Audit Office (NAO) report.
The video session is available here and makes for interesting viewing, particularly the discussion relating to ‘Peer Reviews’ (10:15), which again, we believe are not fit for purpose. It cannot be a robust system of evaluation when a service can choose when it is ‘reviewed’, the makeup of the review team and whether or not to publish the subsequent report. Without any performance data available, the situation can arise where a poorly performing service undertakes a peer review of a service that is currently performing better. This cannot be an acceptable method of transparent scrutiny.
Essex RFU present to Fire Authority
Essex FRS has recently published its IRMP consultation document entitled ‘2020’, which contains a number of proposals to make the necessary financial savings due to the reduction in the government grant received.
Last Friday the RFU gave a presentation to the fire authority which highlighted a number of opportunities that were available to the authority including a new more modern way of working. The presentation was very well received by elected members and demonstrated the hard work and professionalism undertaken by the local RFU committee members.
The results of the consultation process will be known in the new year.