Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why I oppose the way Humberside Fire & Rescue Service plan to cut costs

This past month or so I have had the opportunity to look closely at the cost saving proposals put forth by Humberside Fire and Rescue Service in their Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP), and have twice heard presentations from both Humberside Fire and Rescue Service and the Regional Fire Brigades Union.

The Government has made it clear that the cuts in public spending following the Comprehensive Spending Review should not, where possible, reduce front line services but rather that savings should be made through further partnership working, cutting back office support, curbing excessive spending and eradicating economic wastage.

In the introduction to the Humberside Fire and Rescue Strategic Plan for the years 2011 - 2014, it states that to meet the economic challenges ahead, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service would need to be flexible and adaptable to the rapidly changing public services environment which could “include exploring opportunities to improve efficiencies through increased sharing, collaboration or integration of support functions, premises and other services and assets.”

Unfortunately I feel that the proposals in the IRMP do not reflect this statement nor provide any evidence that this approach had been explored. I cannot reconcile the aims of the Strategic Plan with the proposals in the IRMP and I am very disappointed that other, alternative measures have not been fully explored. Here I support the Government and believe there has to be a greater emphasis on the Fire and Rescue Service working closer together with the other public services, and I would have liked to have seen cost savings achieved by sharing such things as, vehicle maintenance, IT systems, call handling, legal and secretarial support service, community engagement and procurement. There is very little evidence that any of this has been considered before producing the IRMP.

I do understand the financial pressures faced by Humberside Fire and Rescue Service over the coming years, however, as the reduction to the Central Government grant was not as austere as first expected, I certainly feel that the proposals put forth in the IRMP are harsh and have focused unnecessarily on reducing front line services, rather than protecting them.

Quite simply reductions to front line services could have been offset by reducing non-operational officers and by exploring partnership arrangements with other public services.

In view of the scrapping of the plans for a Regional Call Centre in West Yorkshire, I feel that the planned proposals in moving towards further regionalisation of Humberside Fire and Rescue Service in the future is somewhat irrational. It is essential that the Fire and Rescue Service look at improved localised partnership working, as stated in the Strategic Plan.

In conclusion, I strongly oppose the general thrust of the proposals put forward in the IRMP, particularly when it means cutting front line services and specifically the plans for the reduction Fire Appliance crewing down from 5 fire-fighters down to 4, and the changing of the crewing arrangements for specialist appliances.

But I can accept the proposals for changes to the Command Unit crewing and technical rescue fire station crewing arrangements, and also changes to the Operational Command to give a more flexible duty system.

I can also support the introduction of Small Fires Units as any addition to the front line service, but am a little disappointed that one of these Small Fires Units would not be based in Goole. Here I must stress that I would not like to see the Small Fire Units replacing the second response fire engine.

Finally, and following a Freedom of Information request which indicated that over a 6 month period there were over 200 occasions when the Snaith and Howden fire stations could not raise a retained duty crew and thus attend an emergency call - I fully support the review of the retained duty contracts to increase the availability of fire engines, as the current arrangement were all retained duty staff have contracts offering cover in fixed bands of hours do not always give flexibility to meet personal circumstances.

To read the Humberside Fire and Rescue Service Stategic Plan and their Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) for the years 2011 - 2014, and to also complete the online consultation please click here


Anonymous said...

You will never get on the fire authority with a common sense attitude like that.

Anonymous said...

Another of the fantasies from on high - less men (or women) on an engine so who does the job of the missing firefighter? Mind you the FBU are probably their own worst enemy and push up costs which have to be controlled somewhere.

Anonymous said...

A Good observation about the introduction, another example of mis-informing the fire authority. You fail to point out since the last round of fire cuts that fire attributed deaths have risen 100%. How can the Conservative members of the fire authority (with the exception of John Briggs) be continually hoodwinked on the proposals put forward. Example cutting front line crewing arrangement from 5 riders to 4 Incredible. I have not forgot the last cuts and the Conservative chair using their casting vote to downgrade Goole.

Anonymous said...

Oh I'm sure many of us have not forgotten the Fire Authority Chairman's casting vote and I'm sure it will come out during the elections next May if she is daft enough to stand again.

Anonymous said...

A huge rise in fire related deaths! up at least 300% in Humberside.How can the fire authority politicians ignore one of their favorite tools- STATISTICS. They and senior managers should be held accountable for gambling with the lives of the public.

Anonymous said...

It'll be interesting to see if your views, and the views of other ER councillors expressed in the Hull Daily Mail yesterday are expressed in the votes of the ER Fire Authority Members on Monday!!

Anonymous said...

Lovely views but 'vehicle maintenance, office support and IT' dont even begin to approach the money that needs to be saved. Lets start to get real shall we

Paul Robinson said...

Re Anonymous "Lovely views but 'vehicle maintenance, office support and IT' don’t even begin to approach the money that needs to be saved. Let’s start to get real shall we".....

You don’t mention the reductions to front line services that could be offset by reducing non-operational officers and by exploring partnership arrangements with other public services, and you don’t mention savings that can be obtained through shared procurement with other public service providers.

It's very easy to be critical without putting forward credible suggestions of your own...Having looked into this as a member of the ERYC Scrutiny Committee - I personally feel considerable savings can be achieved without cutting frontline services.

We only have to look back a few years and how the operation and particularly the management of the Fire Service was structured to see where savings can be made.

Where do you think the savings should be made?