Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

June 22, 2009 07:09 ET

Essex Fire Crews-Don't Cut Frontline Services, Savings Can Be Made, Significant Costs Can Be Avoided

ESSEX, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - June 22, 2009) - Essex Fire Authority could make real savings and maintain frontline services if it took a closer look at how money was spent, according to the Fire Brigades Union. The union highlighted one example where the fire authority paid Pounds Sterling 252,000 over 14 months to 'contracting agents' to cover for a member of staff who had left.

The agents were paid Pounds Sterling 843.75 a day, well in excess of the daily rate for anyone employed in the UK fire service including all chief fire officers and the Government's Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser. The daily rate paid for an 'interim Director, Workforce Development' was more than the pay of the minister and the Secretary of State responsible for the fire service in England.

The payments were made between 6 November 2006 and 31 December 2007. A new 'Director, Workforce Development' was employed from 1 January 2008 on a salary of Pounds Sterling 99,789. The chief fire officer agreed to increase this pay to Pounds Sterling 110,098 on what are said to be "powers delegated by the Essex Fire Authority."

In addition, the fire authority paid the new Director, Workforce Development one off relocation expenses of Pounds Sterling 25,000. All the details were given in response to a Freedom of Information question.

The FBU has written to fire authority councillors suggesting a number of questions raised by the FoI answer.

Adrian Clarke, FBU regional secretary said: "No one is accusing anyone of doing anything wrong but there are significant questions because of the sums of public money involved. All of the money is connected to covering for a single member of staff.

"It is extraordinary that Pounds Sterling 252,000 was paid as agency cover for one member of staff. That is the cost of crewing two fire engines for a year.

"Setting new pay rates, and this was a significant rise, is normally the exclusive reserve of the fire authority. We're keen to see what authority the chief officer has been given in this regard, particularly when Government was strongly urging no more than 2% increases.

"Relocation expenses are also not unusual, especially for new recruits who need to move a considerable distance to be near work. But Pounds Sterling 25,000 seems very, very generous, the equivalent of year's pay to a firefighter.

"We are not suggesting that rules have been bent or broken. In our view, some of this money could have been saved by simple good house-keeping.

"In our view this is an example of where savings could be made and where significant costs can be avoided. We are happy to work with the fire authority to identify where real savings can be made without attacking frontline services."

Essex Fire and Rescue Service is set to implement a rolling programme of frontline cuts to the 999 emergency response service. The result will be fewer firefighters spread more thinly across Essex leaving too few firefighters on duty to crew all the fire engines.

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.

Forty four of those jobs - one in ten of the frontline fire station based crews -would go by changing the way higher reach aerial ladder platforms and rescue tenders are crewed. The impact would be there would not be enough firefighters to crew all appliances, even if they were needed in a 999 emergency.

The union has given the fire authority until 25 June to shelve the plans.

Contact Information

  • Media contact:
    Adrian Clarke
    07917 017713