It is unfortunate that, for whatever reason, the publication of the report has been significantly delayed, however, as is the case with a number of reports on the fire service, time does seem to stand still as much needed reform is painfully slow.
While some stakeholders will continue to argue for the status-quo and dismiss the report, our view is that the fire service is in need of reform if it is to continue to be relative, proactive and the heartbeat of the local community.
There are no surprises to us within the report, Adrian Thomas speaks of poor management, poor communications, a culture that, in parts, condones bullying and harassment and a national bargaining structure that hinders rather than promotes flexibility within role. Issues which we have raised countless times both locally and nationally over the last 15 years.
While we broadly welcome the Thomas report, we ask one simple question. What is going to be different this time?
The Thomas report is one of a number of national documents published over the years that has identified good and bad practice and recommended change. These well researched and evidenced reports then seem to gather dust on a government department shelf, with stakeholders quick to claim that the contents ‘don’t reflect their service’ and how time has moved on and that the report is now ‘out of date’.
The government has made it clear that the ‘sector’ has to drive reform from within, expecting such bodies as the Local Government Association (LGA), Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), National Joint Council (NJC) and representative bodies to take up the challenge.
While we have reservations about these other groups, one thing is guaranteed, we will continue to rise to the challenge and look forward, promoting improved ways of working that benefit our members on the Retained Duty System and the communities they serve.