e-bulletin July 2011

Dear Colleague

FOR THE ATTENTION OF RFU BRIGADE AND STATION REPS
 
PTW settlement update
Members continue to enquire as to when the settlement payments will finally be made. Our response to them and all members is that the RFU has met its obligations in full in providing Popularis (the third party dealing with all PTW claims) with the relevant information concerning claimants and current employees over two months ago. Popularis have compiled a list of all firefighters and ex-firefighters who will receive a settlement payment. At this stage we are unable to provide any details as to when the payments will be made but will of course provide an update in a future briefing circular. 
 
Jobs under threat, where next?
We have recently advised on the campaign in Nottinghamshire regarding potential station closures and job losses, Cumbria has seen job losses but only amongst RDS! We can also add Cambridgeshire to the list. 
 
In all of these services, local reps (supported by head office) are ‘working tirelessly’ communicating with local groups, councillors and MP’s to get the important message across regarding the value of On-Call personnel. If assurances are needed that we’re getting the message over we have been reassured that all those we have engaged with are extremely supportive. We live in interesting times without doubt but amongst the gloom the signs are that people are waking up to what the added benefits On-Call personnel provide to their local communities and just how cost effective they really are.
 
Attack on the Retained Duty System
The affects of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) has started to filter down onto the grassroots of the fire service with massive cuts proposed in some Services. 
 
What is interesting is that some of these changes were needed and should have been introduced 10 years ago as part of the ‘modernisation’ agenda. Now we are witnessing alarm within council chambers as they attempt to reduce budgets and balance the books.
 
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, some services are merely playing musical chairs with full-time resources and personnel whilst at the same time undertaking a hatchet job of the Retained Duty System.
 
We have already seen retained station closures in West Sussex without one single full-time officer being made compulsory redundant and there is a pattern emerging across the country.
 
In Cambridgeshire senior officers are proposing to close four On-Call stations (Burwell, Gamlingay, Manea and Thorney) and remove four more On-Call appliances (Ely, Ramsey, St Ives and Soham) again no full-time compulsory redundancies on the cards, only reference is made to the now well-known term, ‘natural wastage’. 
 
The Service proposes to reduce the number of On-Call firefighters while using surplus wholetime personnel to fill gaps where On-Call appliances are off the run. This is supposedly all in the name of providing the tax payer with a more cost effective Service!
 
In Nottinghamshire the Chief Fire Officer is having another bite of the cherry to swing the axe over retained staff after his original proposals were rejected. Interestingly enough the CFO has now put 3 options forward containing 18 elements, 11 of which are exactly the same. All options propose the closure of On-Call fire stations or appliances again without any wholetime casualties.
 
The proposal centres on calls currently being responded to by On-Call personnel are to be covered by full-time stations (sound familiar?). The Chief also proposes to introduce ‘Targeted Response Vehicles’ crewed by three full-time officers to respond to ‘bin fires’. 
 
It is evident to us that some services, under the guise of ‘cost savings’, are putting forward proposals that merely prop up Wholetime fire stations with low call levels in areas that are no longer high in risk. This is not in the interests of the public either in terms of safety or cost efficiencies. 
 
Fire Authority members (who you vote for) rely on the ‘professional advice’ they receive from persons they have appointed – Principle Officers. Unfortunately this advice is not always in the interests of the general public. 
 
It is our job to educate, inform and present an alternative argument to elected members and we will continue to do so with increased determination and commitment!
 
Ministerial Round Table Meeting 5 July
Fire Minister Bob Neill MP called a round table meeting in London on Tuesday 5th July, attended by Rep bodies, CFOA, Local Government Group, CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, CFO’s and most importantly 3 RDS Watch Managers, Paul Huthwaite (Herts FRS) Paul Jarvis (Dorset FRS) and Ann Waters MBE formerly Watch Manager of Deddington Fire Station in Oxfordshire. An exceptional opportunity for RDS personnel to make comment on their view of the ‘front line’ 
 
Members will recall the RDS survey commissioned by DCLG, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Advisory Unit which was published in February. The purpose of the round table meeting was specific, a) discussion on the surveys findings and b) mapping a way forward.
 
How did it go?
From our perspective the discussions although wide ranging, did little to focus on the most important aspects of the findings. Given that for the first time in memory, the survey captured the views of serving On-Call personnel, those who had recently left the service and RDS liaison managers. There is a wealth of information on where things could and should be improved provided the will is there to do so.
 
In terms of mapping a way forward, this was left hanging; it is possible that a second round table might be convened in six months or so to determine if there has been any improvement. 
 
To sum up, in 2005 we saw the Retained Review Report and its 51 recommendations, we now have the results of a unique and comprehensive survey which has provided valuable evidence of where effort is required to address the issues highlighted within the survey.
 
While not wishing to be negative, we must raise the following questions:
  1. How much more evidence do we need?
  2. How many more reports on the RDS will be produced and placed on a shelf somewhere to gather dust?
  3. When and in what way will we start to see the surveys findings being given the attention they need.
We have a suggestion! CFOA is well placed to recommend to its members in their respective FRS that they should analyse the findings of the survey and compare it against the work that they have already done and where necessary make a start on addressing those issues that remain. 
 
It would not be too difficult to link the emerging agenda on closures, to our belief, that the lack of determination in some services to deal with a problem which has been with us for many years and conclude that perhaps this is a deliberate means of creating evidence to support closures.
 
John Barton 
National General Secretary

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