Sir Ken Knight’s report (here) was published on the 17th May and attracted huge media attention which resulted in a great deal of media interest of the RFU’s position. This involved radio and TV interviews with the national media.
Firstly, as contributors to the work of the review team, we welcome specific comments by Sir Ken highlighting the fact that:
‘On-Call firefighters are the backbone of provision in many fire and rescue authorities'.
Sir Ken also said that:
‘The challenge for all fire and rescue authorities in new reduced-demand environment is to fully consider how they make best use of On-Call staff’
Highlighting the potential for increasing the On-Call establishment by 10% to 40% of the total workforce, which if implemented would see saving of up to £123 million per year. For our part, if savings can be made, then a proportion of the savings need to be re-invested into the On-Call provision.
As expected some argued that RDS availability is the main difficulty to which he responded that innovation in attracting recruits, advertising and promoting the RDS at service level would assist on this issue. Something which we have been strongly arguing in favour of in the past when previous reviews have taken place.
Key findings from the Executive Summary
- Deaths from fires in the home are at an all time low; incidents have reduced by 40 per cent in the last decade, but expenditure and firefighter numbers remain broadly the same. This suggests that there is room for reconfiguration and efficiencies to better match the service to the current risk and response context.
- Some fire and rescue authorities spend almost twice as much per person per year in some areas than others, but there seems to be little relationship between expenditure and outcomes.
- If all authorities spending more than the average reduced their expenditure to the average, savings could amount to £196 million a year.
The RFU will provide a comprehensive response which will be circulated to members in due course.
Following the release of the report, the Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, organised a Fire Review teleconference on Thursday 23rd May, stakeholders including the RFU were invited to register and join in, and this turned out to be a quite unique and positive event.
We provided a running commentary via twitter @rfunion and have listed below a few of the notable comments made:
RFU @rfunion @BrandonLewis reiterates that there are no plans for the government to privatise the Fire Service. #FireReview
RFU @rfunion Sir Ken Knight: More training can be undertaken at home by On-Call staff via e-learning. #FireReview
RFU @rfunion National recruitment campaign needed for On-Call staff? #FireReview
Mark Hardingham @mark_hardingham
Good Q into the Fire Minister about national support for changes to the on-call system…learn from national work associated with the TA
Jon Hall @GlosFireChief
Final point from @BrandonLewis; Some services cost nearly twice as much as others per head of population – That can't be right.
RFU @rfunion We support the Northumberland CFO's call for more co-operation between blue-light services (inc. NHS). #FireReview
@CornwallDCFO On-Call profile can be improved by FRS reaching out to the public and community groups to raise awareness
You can listen to the audio of the teleconference here.
Given the comments within the media in recent days it appears that some are forecasting the end of the world as we know it, i.e. mass job losses, lives lost etc.
Our position is quite clear, a dividing line is gradually opening up between those who deny any need for efficiencies, don’t want change of any sort, want the status-quo to remain and who are quite happy to continue to see On-Call posts sacrificed in order to prop up wholetime jobs and to be honest seek the support of On-Call firefighters in order to achieve their aim.
Therefore a judgement call has to be made, whether to lend your support to the above at the huge risk of your own job and continued contribution to your community or to recognise that by joining the RFU and supporting our aims; your long term interests will be better served.