National Update

The FRSA in Parliament

08 March 2024

It’s been a very busy week with the FRSA invited to give oral evidence at both the Welsh Parliament, at the Equality and Social Justice Committee on Monday 4th March 2024 and Westminster, at the Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday 5th March 2024.

Equality and Social Justice Committee (Wales)

Following the damning independent investigation into the culture of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, the Equality and Social Justice Committee took oral evidence from the National Fire Chiefs Council, the FRSA, FBU and Unison as part of the inquiry into the governance of Fire and Rescue Services, including how this could be improved. The Committee will look at current governance arrangements including the Welsh Government’s role and the response to the Review’s findings. The Committee will also consider the case for reform and whether any lessons may be learned and applied elsewhere.

Cerith Griffiths, the FBU Executive Council member for Wales, stated that the fire service should have fewer On-Call (part-time) firefighters in the future. Mr Griffiths stated:

‘And I would suggest that we should create a fire service for the future, and, if I were to do that, I wouldn’t use as many part-time firefighters, but we’re talking about putting a lot of money into the service in order to improve the situation that we currently have.’

The above comment can be found via Senedd TV which is also where the entire proceedings of the committee can be viewed.

Tristan Ashby, Chief Executive Officer of the FRSA stated when giving evidence to the committee that the FRSA had an opposing view to that of the FBU, stating:

‘We believe that managed correctly by broadening the role, you can actually improve recruitment and retention and have a wider reliance on On-Call firefighters that is beneficial to the community.’

Home Affairs Committee (England)

The following day, the Home Affairs Committee heard evidence on the culture of the services in England, in attendance was Chief Inspector Andy Cooke (HMICFRS), Nazir Afzal (author of the Independent Culture Review of London Fire Brigade), Alex Johnson (Director at Women in the Fire Service), Tristan Ashby (FRSA) and Matt Wrack (FBU).

The session examined the conclusions and recommendations of recent reviews into the culture of the fire and rescue services, and the response of the services to these findings. It is fair to say that the majority of those giving evidence confirmed that little, if any, meaningful progress had been made.  At the conclusion of the evidence, the claim was made that the Fire Service was institutionally misogynist, racist and homophobic. The FRSA, however, chose not to make this allegation, which ignores the fact that the vast majority of those people working in fire and rescue services across the country, do so in a professional, respectful and compassionate manner. It also unnecessarily damages public confidence in a service which should be there for all of the public in their time of need. 

Chair of the committee, Dame Diana Johnson, also highlighted near the end of the session, the FBU report which identified that nearly a third of female firefighters had experienced sexual harassment when attending FBU events. 

Rather than being part of the problem, the FRSA seeks to be part of the solution. Our members are, by their very nature open to change and accepting of all people. By working with partners within the fire service we are working hard to to eradicate inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.

The Home Affairs Committee session into fire service culture can be viewed via Parliament TV.

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service

The highly publicised consultation to remove all of its On-Call establishment by Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service is nearing its conclusion, as the public consultation exercise closes on 10 March 2024. The treatment of their On-Call firefighters has been little short of appalling. 

The FRSA has produced a detailed response opposing the change and has been heartened by the public backlash to the proposals, which have demonstrated that residents recognise the value of their fire stations, and particularly their On-Call firefighters.

While the consultation process finishes, our campaign to raise awareness of this dangerous proposal continues, with the lobbying of elected members within County Hall and local MPs, the local media and local people.

We would also like to recognise the fact that the local branch of the Fire Officers Association has worked jointly with us on our opposition to their so-called ‘Resourcing to Risk’ consultation document. We are unsure however of the position being taken by other representative bodies in the fire and rescue service, and whether they too oppose the recommendation to decimate the On-Call in the county?

Membership

The actions of both Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service and Warwickshire County Council underline the importance of union membership to protect jobs and personal interests. Please encourage your co-workers to join the FRSA if they haven’t already, and if you have ideas on how we can promote the benefits of our membership further, please let us know.

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.