New plans from fire minister Brandon Lewis to privatise the whole of Britain’s fire and rescue service will cost lives, says Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack.
Mr Lewis has written to the Regulatory Reform Committee at Westminster seeking views on new laws to “enable fire and rescue authorities in England to contract out their full range of services to a suitable provider”.
But Mr Wrack said: “Just privatising parts of the service has already brought near-disaster.
AssetCo, which was given the contract to maintain London’s and Lincolnshire’s fleets of fire engines, failed to do so properly and, when the company collapsed, could have lost them altogether to AssetCo’s creditors.
“While profiting from our public service they were unable to meet their commitments to maintain and renew fire engines and equipment. London and Lincolnshire firefighters reported all kinds of problems.
“These proposals are grotesque and if they come to fruition will sacrifice lives on the altar of profit. This is the same disastrous model that has been used in the health service, the rail industry and local government to slash services while providing bountiful profits for private companies.”
The fire minister’s letter claims local support for mutualisation in Cleveland and that contracting out provides more choice, but Wrack said: “This is not an employee-led local initiative. It’s simply a cost-cutting measure. Firefighters in Cleveland and elsewhere have told the FBU they do not want privatisation, they do not want mutualisation and they do not want contracting out. They want to provide a first class service to the public and have professional pay and conditions of service.
“There is no public demand for privatising the fire and rescue service. There is no support among firefighters for these measures. The government should stop now before they do untold damage.”
12th February 2013