Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

March 09, 2012 10:55 ET

Privatisation Failings Highlighted in Official Report "Fast Turning in to an Unmitigated Disaster" Warns Fire Brigades Union

LONDON, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - March 9, 2012) - The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned that the safety of Londoners is being jeopardised, following publication of a report exposing serious failings by the controversial private company which owns and maintains the capital's fleet of fire appliances and fifty thousand items of equipment.

The report, which was drafted by senior brigade officers, highlighted how a recent financial crisis afflicting AssetCo had caused a sharp deterioration in the company's operational performance, leading to reduced availability of critical appliances.

The FBU says the report is a damning indictment of the decision to privatise a core part of the service, and has called on the brigade to scrap its plans to sell off other key functions of the organisation, including its Control centre and training arm.

AssetCo was handed the multi-million pounds 20-year vehicle and equipment contract under a private finance initiative in 2001. Last year, the company's share price plummeted to a junk level, as it hit a financial crisis and court action with debts of up to £140 million.

The company continues to stumble on, but officers admit in the report that there had been a "number of performance shortfalls" caused "largely as a result of AssetCo's financial crises". These crises had "had caused the diversion of AssetCo's management focus from the normal business activities of delivering the service".

Shortfalls included:

  • Poor levels of availability of aerial appliances - crucial for tackling fires and carrying out rescues at height.
  • A sharp increase in the time taken to repair or replace defective appliances, resulting in temporary reductions in the level of cover in some areas. The report says that this problem would have been more acute were it not for the intervention of brigade officers.
  • Serious delays in the delivery of operational equipment and training vehicles, caused by a combination of poor administration and non-payment to suppliers.
  • Poor defect monitoring.
  • Scheduled servicing of appliances not carried out on 34 occasions.
  • A failure to honour its obligation to provide seven new vehicles to train firefighters to drive appliances, leading to existing appliances being used beyond their agreed life.
  • Insufficient control or scrutiny of the vehicle records system.
  • A failure to supply information relating to 80 road accidents involving fire appliances, meaning that the brigade has been unable to recover taxpayers' money from third parties.

The FBU's regional secretary for London, Paul Embery, said: "For months, brigade bosses have been dismissing our concerns about the performance of AssetCo. Now they have been forced to admit what we knew all along: that this experiment in privatisation is fast turning into an unmitigated disaster.

"The safety of Londoners is being put at risk because of these failings. London's fire engines should never have been sold off. We argued at the time that it was a madcap idea to hand over the capital's entire fleet of appliances to an outfit whose performance was contingent on fluctuations in the stock market. And so it has proved.

"We call on the mayor, Boris Johnson, to halt plans for further privatisation in the London Fire Brigade, and to bring London's fire engines back into public ownership immediately. That is the only way that the provision of the fleet, and thereby Londoners' safety, can be properly guaranteed."

Contact Information

  • Paul Embery
    07854 998508