I wrote to Penny Mordaunt MP to congratulate her on being appointed as the Minister for Fire and Rescue and to request an early meeting to introduce her to the RFU.
Encouraged by a prompt reply, Tristan Ashby and I met with Ms Mordaunt on Tuesday 29th July at Eland House in London.
Usually the first meeting focuses on ‘meet and greet’ but on this occasion we quickly got down to talking about the current issues.
Modified Pension Scheme
The Firefighters’ Pension Scheme England (Amendment) Order 2014 (Statutory Instrument) came into force on 1st April 2014. The new legislation included a change to injury pensions for On-Call firefighter’s in that the existing ‘Protected Rights’ to a pension equal to a wholetime employee of the same rank/role, age and length of service was removed. We had previously questioned this removal at every opportunity prior to the 1st April and had set out the potential impact should a member sustain a permanent on duty injury which then affected their primary employment.
The Minister fully understood the points we were making and we believe that her own position as a Royal Navy Reservist helps her level of understanding of the similarities between the reserve forces and On-Call staff. We will continue to make representations to the Minister on this important issue which has a massive impact on the recruitment and retention of On-Call personnel.
We spoke about our most recent survey covering recruitment and retention issues, the proposals to increase the number of On-Call personnel and how vitally important we believe it is to remove some of the problems which affect availability. For example the glaring need for a re-energised focus on communication and partnership between the FRS, On-Call firefighters and their primary employers, explaining that the recruitment undertaking for reservists appears to be much better developed than is the case in the FRS. Members will recall we have documented this at length in recent bulletins.
There is a great deal of concern among members regarding the expectations on fitness and the disparity between the provisions for shift personnel compared with On-Call personnel. We made the point that On-Call staff attend the same type of incidents, have the same expectations placed upon them, therefore support from the service needs to be levelled.
Earlier this month Brandon Lewis MP announced that Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser is to chair a Joint Working Group on firefighter fitness. The RFU will be represented on the working group and will work toward a solution to this issue.
The minister made it perfectly clear that the issues we had raised were important enough to investigate further in the remaining months of the parliament.
What is also particularly pleasing is that the new minister has the understanding of the issues faced by our members due to the overlap between On-Call firefighters and reservists.
Clearly Ms Mordaunt has hit the ground running within her new role and we look forward to working with her in the months ahead.
National General Secretary