Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

October 21, 2009 06:19 ET

Firefighters and Fire Service Not Highly Valued by Government, Fire Crews Will Tell MPs

LONDON, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Oct. 21, 2009) - Frontline firefighters say they do not feel either they or the fire service are highly valued by Government. Those are two of the key findings in a poll of over 1,800 FBU members undertaken by YouGov.

Asked to rate their agreement to the statement: 'the Government really values the Fire and Rescue Service and those who work in it', only 3% of respondents agreed, while 81% disagreed. Most respondents felt highly valued by the public, 68 % said they felt highly valued, while only 6 per cent felt poorly valued.

Almost all respondents (93 per cent) agreed with the statement: "The Fire and Rescue Service must stop cutting frontline personnel if it is to provide a coherent, effective and safe response to the incidents it is expected to attend", with only 3 per cent disagreeing.

The union would like Government to underpin local flexibilities with key national standards to protect service standards and public and firefighter safety. Over 1,000 firefighters, officers and control staff will lobby Parliament on 21st October demanding change following a rally at Central Hall, Storey's Gate.

Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary said: "Frontline fire crews do not feel either they or their service are valued by Government. The findings are an appalling indictment of the direction of Government policy and its attitude to frontline fire crews.

"Frontline crews want an end to cuts and they want better training and equipment. They see enormous sums of money being wasted on a massive fire service IT project which has gone badly wrong.

"We want a focus on the core work of the service - responding to a range of 999 emergencies - which is what the public want. Government spends most of its time talking about safety leaflets and fitting smoke alarms, which have a role, but must never be the starting point for what we require of an emergency response service.

"It's appalling when senior civil servants tell MPs that the speed of arrival at 999 emergencies does not matter, when the professionals know that every second counts. It is both ignorant of the facts and demeaning of the daily work firefighters do.

"Frontline fire fighters are sick of the wave of attacks on themselves and the fire service triggered by Government. Gordon Brown will not be able to sustain the spin that he is protecting frontline services when the local and regional media are filled with stories about cuts to frontline fire services.

"These attacks and cuts will haunt this Government up to the general election unless it changes its tone and its approach. We're here to tell MPs why fire crews have lost faith in this Government and what needs to be done to restore that faith."

In the last two years, 18 per cent - nearly one in five - said they had been injured. Firefighters working wholetime duty systems were the most likely to have been injured (23 per cent), while 17 per cent of retained firefighters had been injured.

National standards for training, equipment, core training, appliances and operational procedures were all seen to be highly important by respondents. Respondents gave most of them an average score of around 9 (on a scale of zero to ten of importance).

The vast majority (86 per cent) saw the fire service's assumption of new responsibilities (e.g. responding to terrorist incidents, urban search and rescue, rope rescues, flooding, and water rescue) as a positive development; only 5 per cent saw this as negative. However there were concerns over training. Only 30 per cent saw existing training levels as adequate or more than adequate for these new responsibilities (a score of 5 or above), while 70 per cent saw training as currently inadequate (a score of 4 or below).

When asked specifically about major flooding, half of respondents thought the service was poorly prepared in terms of training, while only ten per cent thought it well prepared. The view of equipment was slightly better: 17 per cent thought the service well prepared in terms of equipment, and 46 per cent thought it poorly prepared.

Support in principle for the service responding to flooding was high: 93 per cent agreed that, assuming adequate training and equipment were provided, the service should respond to major flooding, while only 3 per cent disagreed.

Respondents had a poor opinion of the adequacy of operational training in general. When asked for the views on the statement "Insufficient or inadequate operational training is compromising the safety of firefighters at incidents", 81 per cent agreed while only 7 per cent disagreed.

When asked about priorities for spending in the FRS, operational training was seen to be the most important by a clear margin, with 91 per cent of respondents saying this was a priority. The other key areas were frontline personnel (77 per cent) and frontline equipment (75 per cent).

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1847 current FBU members who are currently working in the Fire and Rescue Service. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 28th Sept 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have not been weighted.

Contact Information

  • Media contacts
    020 8541 1765
    Rally/Lobby contact
    Duncan Milligan
    07736 818100