During his speech at the Asian Fire Service Association Conference, the Fire Minister made the following statement regarding the recently published Thomas Review:
Earlier this month I published the Thomas Review which was an independent review of conditions of service for fire and rescue staff in England.
The Thomas Review is central to our fire reform agenda providing the hard evidence, some of which is hard to read, gathered from and verified by people from within the fire and rescue service, of where change is needed. Indeed, the wider reform agenda already underpins many of the changes which are highlighted in the review, for example, the planned introduction of a fire inspectorate, professional standards and the ability of police and crime commissioners to take responsibility for fire.
The review itself makes 45 recommendations, the vast majority of which are not actually directed at government but at the Local Government Association, the National Joint Council and fire and rescue authorities themselves to take onboard.
If implemented, these recommendations will help to secure the future of the service for years to come. It will create a working environment free from bullying and harassment, stronger leadership, better engagement, and more flexible working conditions.
The review itself addressed the issue of culture and trust and suggested that the failure to attract a diverse work was partly attributable to non-supportive working environments where intolerant behaviours were evident and actually seems to be accepted.
As a result, the review recommends that a change in the culture is needed and an acceptance that women, ethnic minorities together with all groups that make up the diversity of the working population must have a place in the fire and rescue service. Something that I fully agree with and from the fact that you are here today, I have no doubt you do too.
But words are meaningless without action. I expect the LGA and the service to rise to the challenge and deliver the review’s recommendations and I will be closely monitoring their delivery.
The general public hold the fire and rescue service in the highest regard and rightly so, but if the service refuses to adapt and modernise, to be ready for the next century ahead, otherwise this will ultimately end up undermining and damaging its reputation in the long term.
Over the coming few months we will be giving the service the framework for reform and the autonomy to control its future. The question is whether the sector and its leaders are up for the challenge.
I want to see a progressive fire and rescue service that is forward thinking and inclusive. This is definitely achievable if the desire for change is there and if we all play our part. It is up to service leaders to make this a reality and now is the time for action to make these changes at pace. I want this association and all of you here today, to be confident to stand up and challenge negative behaviours wherever we find them and ensure action and change is happening.
The fire and rescue service recently marked the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London and celebrated the 150th year of the London Fire Brigade. This is a great achievement and rightly something to be proud of. Looking to the future, it will be a tremendous legacy if we make the service representative of the communities it serves, enabling it to be a modern, diverse and inclusive service and one that is fully equipped to meet new challenges not just for today but for tomorrow as well.
The full transcript of the speech can be found here.