National news round-up – 23 December 2014

Westminster Debate: Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (England)

Members may or may not be aware that as a consequence of the current dispute concerning pensions that this was the subject of a lengthy and robust debate in parliament on the 15th December, the debate was called for by the opposition, who if they had been successful would have put this matter back to square one, the new pension scheme would not have come into effect on 1st April next year. You can read the debate here.

Whilst we accept that in some quarters this issue is a matter of great concern for those who fear they may be left without a job and a pension if they cannot meet standards of fitness as they grow older, the lengthy debate and the assurances provided by the minister Penny Mordaunt during the debate and in her summing up saw the government succeed by 313 votes to 261.

As an aside to the debate the present strength of feeling regarding ‘English votes for English laws’. One thing which resonated was the fact that the devolved administrations have taken a slightly different approach to the main issue regarding job and pension security, yet MP’s from the devolved administrations were in the house and able, should they chose to do so, undermine the new scheme for England in 2015!

Following the outcome of the debate the Minister Penny Mordaunt has written to me setting out what is now the settled position for the new scheme and acknowledging the widespread support for the Fitness Working Group which the RFU will be a part of.

In her letter the minister also repeated her personal thanks to the RFU and its members for continuing to support the UK during the ongoing industrial action. The explanation provided and sentiments expressed are both helpful and appreciated by the RFU and its members. The letter can be found here

Blue Lights project at Mind

As you may be aware, Mind, the mental health charity, has been granted Libor funding to develop a major new programme of mental health support for emergency services personnel – both staff and volunteers – from Police, Fire & Rescue, Ambulance and Search & Rescue services across England.

Mind is inviting current and former members of emergency services to shape the Blue Light programme by sharing their views on how to support mental health and wellbeing of blue light personnel.   They are committed to co-producing this programme in partnership with blue light service personnel and volunteers to ensure that it is reflective of and responds to your needs in this area.

There is now an online survey for emergency services personnel from all four services.  MIND would very much like to hear from Retained firefighters so please take 15 minutes to complete the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/MindBLP and please circulate this opportunity to colleagues.

Response to National Consultations

This year has seen a number of national consultation exercises as previously explained. A response if it is to be effective cannot be prepared without research and consideration, quite often within tight time constraints; however, the notable responses to national consultation processes were:

  • Independent terms and conditions review
  • Amendments to the fire and rescue national framework – Firefighter Fitness Standards and Assessment
  • Regulations to introduce a new Firefighters’ Pension Scheme from April 2015

In addition there are numerous local consultation responses given across the UK throughout the year and we thank those of you who have assisted us with these submissions which have, without doubt protected members from station closures, reductions in resources and the loss of jobs.

We might not be successful in winning every argument but we take great comfort in the knowledge that we are able to influence the majority of decisions taken around the UK.

Membership

Membership continues to increase, mainly due to a wider circulation of e-bulletins and other information.  If your station is keen to find out more about the benefits of membership, please email hq@therfu.org or telephone 01953 455005.

This is of course much welcomed, but the bottom line is that we circulate unmodified information which members and non-members alike are most likely not receiving from elsewhere. If you would like to keep up to date on current news you can subscribe here.

Finally
RFU members will be on duty during the festive season and as usual are ready to have their own family celebrations interrupted by those with an immediate need for assistance. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best, we celebrate your commitment. Please take all possible steps to keep safe whilst protecting those who are less able to do so themselves.

With my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

John Barton OBE
National General Secretary

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