Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

February 26, 2010 06:49 ET

Essex Fire Chiefs Playing Politics With People's Lives

ESSEX, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Feb. 26, 2010) - Essex fire chiefs are engaged in a massive "spin" operation to convince the public that life-saving 999 standards in the county are not deteriorating. The truth, says the Fire Brigades Union, is that cuts in the frontline service have exposed the people of Essex and firefighters to unnecessary risk – and it's going to get worse.

999 attendance times are down on last year, and nowhere near the targets set. The target is for firefighters to reach the scene of an emergency incident within eight minutes, at least eight times out of ten. In fact the most recent figures reveal that they get there within eight minutes just over six times out of ten. The default target is that the first fire engine should arrive within 10 minutes nine times out of 10; in fact it's just under eight times out of 10. 

"The professionals on the frontline are alarmed at the apparent complacency of our senior managers. Recent comments and proposals suggest that our fire chiefs are trying to disguise the decline in our 999 attendance times by spinning the figures" says FBU acting brigade secretary for Essex Keith Flynn. 

"They've already changed the way they count the amount of time fire engines are unavailable due to understaffing. Now we've heard they want to stop counting how quickly fire crews actually arrive to deal with an emergency; instead it seems they want to measure the time of receiving the call to the time a fire engine leaves the fire station, no matter how far or for how long it has to travel.

"That way they can hide how often local fire engines are unavailable due to understaffing, requiring fire crews to be sent from further away. It would also hide the impact of last year's cuts leaving too few firefighters on duty to crew all the fire engines at some fire stations, which also leads to delays."

The budgeted Essex establishment is 954 firefighters and fire officers, but this year the numbers are being run down to an all time low of 890. At the same time increases in back-room bureaucrats and administrators continue to expand (up 64% – from 164 support staff in 2002 to 269 this year).

Industrial action in Essex fire stations has been going on since autumn last year, with bans on overtime and "acting up." The dispute that led to that action included a requirement that fire chiefs maintain an actual, employed establishment of 954. That dispute is ongoing and not only have they failed to agree to and deliver the required establishment of 954, they have gone on to make more cuts.

"The cuts in firefighters and fire stations have been savage and so it's little wonder 999 attendance times are suffering. We have tried to defend the frontline service by selecting action which will not make a dangerous situation even riskier" says Mr Flynn. "But we cannot sit back and watch fire chiefs continually cut the frontline 999 service and put at risk the lives of fire crews and members of the public. We have to speak out and expose this dangerous policy."

Contact Information

  • Mick Rogers
    07967 023709
    Lindley Chambers
    07792 741917
    Paul Adams
    Adrian Clarke
    07917 017713