Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

December 07, 2009 09:47 ET

Putting the Frontline First? You Must be Joking

LONDON, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Dec. 7, 2009) - Frontline fire services remain a target for cuts, despite Government claims today it was "Putting the frontline first". The Fire Brigades Union attacked the Government claims, saying they were totally unrelated to what was happening to frontline fire services.

The numbers of station-based frontline firefighters were cut by 1,500 in the first ten years of the Labour Government. But there was a 40% rise in the number of senior management and corporate jobs.

Those facts may explain why the fire service does not warrant a single mention on any of the 68 pages of Putting the Frontline First, despite it being a high profile frontline service.

The frontline of the fire service which has been singled out – within the service - for cuts. The number of wholetime frontline firefighters was cut by 3.4%, while corporate and top management staff increased by 40.7% between April 1998 and April 2007.

The fire service is employing nearly 5,000 more people than it did in 1998. But the number of whole-time firefighters – who serve the majority of the population - has seen a 3.4% reduction.

In England, the drop is 4.2% in wholetime firefighters. Metropolitan fire authorities have seen a large fall of 12.6%.

There remains a shortage of between 3,000 and 5,000 'on call' firefighters who work retained duty. In some brigades the shortage is chronic and getting worse.

The fire service also has its own major IT disaster known as FireControl. Originally estimated at costing Pounds Sterling 100 million and being ready by the end of 2007 it is now estimated as costing Pounds Sterling 1.4 billion and rising and is five years late. The technology may never work although consultants have already run up bills in excess of Pounds Sterling 50 million.

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: "Frontline fire services have been singled out for savage cuts as a matter of Government policy. Yet there's been an explosion in the number of corporate and senior management jobs.

"You don't get much more frontline than the fire service, yet it is not worthy of a single mention from Gordon Brown or any of his ministers. It is perhaps little wonder given the Government's track record on the fire service since 1997."

The attack on the frontline emergency response of the fire service continues apace and will intensify under Treasury endorsed plans enforced by the Audit Commission. Major cuts plans have emerged in Warwickshire, Merseyside, Leicestershire, Lancashire, Essex, Cleveland, Hertfordshire and Cornwall in the last few months and will spread.

As at 31 March 2007 the total number employed in the UK fire and rescue service stood at 67,328 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs). This is a 7.4% increase on 62,713 (FTE) staff employed as at 31 March 1998.

The biggest increase has been seen within 'other' staff – a 40.7% increase between 1998 and 2007. The Audit Commission in Rising to the Challenge, published November 2008 found there had been a 35% increase in 'other' staff since 2000.

While the Audit Commission did not appear to know what this new intake did, it endorsed the exclusive targeting of frontline fire services for more cuts. A position immediately endorsed by the Treasury.

Contact Information

  • Fire Brigade Union
    0208 541 1765
    Out of hours 07736 818100