The RFU met with the Chief Fire Officer of Scotland, CFO Hay last week to exchange views on the potential ways in which the service could undergo transformation changes in the next few years.
The meeting was attended by both national and local officials and was extremely productive, with many issues discussed being of mutual benefit to Retained Firefighters across the country.
Merging eight services into one was always going to provide challenges but moving to a single service has provided an opportunity to standardise numerous areas of operations to the benefit of its staff and the public, not least by allowing for the opportunity to make savings by reducing duplication.
The question will therefore be asked by local government elsewhere, if Scotland can work effectively and efficiently as one service why do we have over 40 separate fire & rescue services in England?
Health & Safety Executive (HSE)
The RFU met with the HSE earlier this month to discuss national health and safety matters and how best the two organisations exchange views and information in the future.
We raised a number of concerns with the HSE including the lack of a national forum of all stakeholders to raise H&S matters, exchange views and share best/good practice. Also raised was the ongoing arrangement whereby in some services, either separate meetings are still being held with the FBU due to their unwillingness to sit down with other rep bodies, or FBU members are not being represented at all due to their refusal to attend H&S meetings. This is both impractical and unhelpful to all operational staff.
We hope that all rep bodies can work together to the benefit of all staff in the near future – we are and always have been, happy to sit with all stakeholders.
Inclusive Fire Service Group
The second official meeting of the Inclusive Fire Service Group takes place on 11 December. Unfortunately despite the first meeting taking place back in early October no minutes/notes of the meeting have been produced so we are not able to share any further details.
A reminder of the groups remit:
(i) the purpose of this group is assessment of the current position in respect of equality, diversity, behavioural and cultural issues; and
(ii) identification of guidance in relation to any further strategies that could be used at local level to further encourage improvement.
(iii) in respect of (i) above, to consider whether it is necessary to gather new monitoring data or whether there is sufficient monitoring data already available that can be drawn from e.g. the NJC survey, the survey conducted by the FBU, local employee satisfaction surveys, and other sources.
The National Audit Office (NAO) published a report earlier this month which examined evidence of the impact of funding reductions and the Department’s actions to inform itself of the likely impact on financial and service sustainability of fire and rescue authorities. The report makes for interesting reading!
The report (available here) contains a number of key findings and recommendations that provides all stakeholders with food for thought. We will be providing our own response to the report in due course, as ever, any direct comments/views from members are welcome and can be submitted here.
The proposals put forward by Suffolk Chief Fire Officer, Mark Hardingham are an attempt to identify £1.3m of savings due to the reductions in government funding. While we have sympathy with the services predicament, as it is also one of the cheapest in the country per head of population, it is incomprehensible that the proposals predominately focus on removing Retained appliances and closing a Retained station.
During a live radio debate the CFO and Suffolk County Council representative Matthew Hicks were challenged by the RFU as to why two Day Crewed stations in the county were being protected, despite these stations responding to less than 180 calls each per year. Unsurprisingly the reply was inadequate.
The RFU will continue to fight against these proposals which reduce the number of frontline appliances in the county and do not provide the public with best value. We will be submitting an alternative proposal that identifies the necessary savings without the loss of so many appliances.
Consultation ends 22 February 2016.
National Operational Guidance Seminar
The RFU was invited to attend the Parliamentary Seminar earlier this month to recognise the work undertaken by the National Operational Guidance Programme. While the programme is halfway through, the project which develops high-quality national operational guidance providing; safe systems of work for firefighters, intraoperability between fire and rescue services and interoperability with other emergency services.
The RFU is a member of the Operational Guidance Group and has been making a contribution since the group began three years ago.
If you are interested in representing the RFU on this group please contact us via our website.
Fire Scheme Advisory Board (SAB)
Included within the Public Sector Pension Act 2013 and incorporating the recent changes to the schemes in the fire service, there is to be a Scheme Advisory Board (SAB) which provides advice to all Local Pension Boards within the fire service. The positions on this SAB are to be appointed by the Secretary of State and the expectation is that rep bodies such as RFU, FOA, APFO and FBU will all be appointed very soon.
Details of the appointments, the constitution of the board and future meetings will be provided to members as part of these e-bulletins.
CFOA RDS Conference
Good news, there will be a CFOA RDS Conference in the spring of next year. We will keep members updated on developments including speakers, topics and presentations.
The RFU prides itself on providing our members with a unique service and benefits package.
Over recent months we have been working on a new benefits package – WATCH THIS SPACE FOR FURTHER DETAILS!