Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

November 12, 2009 03:56 ET

Essex FBU Welcomes Shelving of Plans for New GBP 16 Million Fire HQ and Call for a 'Bonfire of Bad Ideas' to Save Even More Money

ESSEX, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Nov. 12, 2009) - Essex Fire Brigades Union has welcomed the shelving of plans to build a new £16 million fire service HQ at Kelvedon Park, saying the money would be better spent on frontline services. The union has now called on the fire authority to halt moves to buy a helicopter and reverse plans to spend another £6 million on an office IT system.

Keith Flynn, Essex FBU Secretary: "This is a welcome start and we hope the money saved can be used to protect the frontline 999-service which is facing cuts. We want a bonfire of bad ideas which must include axing plans to buy a helicopter and halt plans to spend another £6 million on an office IT system.

"We need to get our priorities right and at long last the common-sense message from fire crews seems to be getting through – cuts to the frontline should be the last resort. We have been calling on the fire authority to put their cuts on hold whilst we jointly review the balance of resources between the frontline and the back room office.

"Up to now they ignored us and pressed ahead with cutting the 999-service and the number of frontline firefighters. Now it seems they are beginning to realize the need to re-think their priorities and that is to be welcomed."

But the union was concerned about the decision not to replace the Deputy Chief Fire Officer when he leaves next month. The post is a senior professional fire service role.

Keith Flynn said: "We've not been consulted at all about losing a very senior fire service professional post. We hope it's not a crude attempt to distract from the unexplained 40% explosion in senior corporate and admin staff over the last 5 years at a time when frontline fire crews have been cut."

 Plans have been announced to speed up moves to relocate staff from the old service HQ in Hutton meaning all support staff will be housed in one headquarters, not two headquarters buildings 20 miles apart. This can only mean more financial savings through the simple 'good housekeeping'.

Essex FBU hopes this will mean that plans for further cuts to frontline services can be scrapped and these extensive savings used to fund the frontline emergency service that the public are paying for, not the reduced service senior manager and the Fire Authority had planned to be implemented.

The Fire Authority proposes to cut the number of firefighters by "managed vacancies" from 954 firefighters in December 2008, to an average of 940 during 2008/9, to 920 during 2009/10, to 905 in March 2010.

The cuts mean frontline firefighters being spread more thinly across Essex and has also led to the controversial decision to downgrade the way special appliances like rescue tenders and aerial (high reach) appliances are crewed. On October 1, cuts in the number of firefighters at Colchester, Chelmsford and Harlow stations resulted in the removal of dedicated crews for specialist emergency vehicles. The cuts mean there are only enough firefighters to crew three of the four appliances currently crewed at these fire stations (two fire engines and two specialist vehicles), even if they are all needed in a 999 emergency.

Similar plans affecting Leigh, Southend, Basildon and Grays fire stations are planned to be implemented sometime soon, but in the light of the CFO's recent statement the FBU hopes those cuts will be shelved and as the CFO states "the focus on cutting costs will begin at the top" not cutting the frontline emergency service to the public.

The union has also objected to a number of other changes which it says local managers are trying to impose rather than negotiate. Talks between the union and managers are planned for 16 November.

Contact Information

  • Lindley Chambers
    07792 741917
    Keith Flynn
    07956 459111
    Mick Rogers
    07967 023709
    Adrian Clarke
    07917 017713