The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has responded to the proposals put forward by the home secretary in her speech to the Reform think tank, including a 'cautious welcome' of the idea for the establishment of an independent inspectorate for the fire service.
The new inspectorate will replace the current system of ‘peer challenge’ which effectively means “chief fire officers handpick their own reviewer.”
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The home secretary may be surprised that we agree with her on some of the issues she raised. We have been calling for an independent inspectorate for some time, as the current system had led to huge imbalances on the standards imposed on services across the county. We support any move that will mean all fire and rescue services are inspected, validated and held accountable in a standardised fashion.
“We are all however surprised about the claims that the home secretary has made about the size of the fire and rescue workforce not having changed in the past decade. The record cuts that this government have imposed on the fire and rescue services have resulted in far fewer frontline firefighters and is contributing to a poorer and less reliable public service.
“Whilst we want to work with the home secretary for a greater diversity in our fire and rescue service, it needs to be pointed out that it was her government who in 2010 chose to remove the diversity targets that were in place, sending a clear signal to employers that diversity was of being downgraded."
Since 2010, more than 7,000 frontline firefighters have been axed. Last year the government's own figures showed response times to fires were at a 20 year high. Fire deaths have jumped by 21% between 2014 and 2015.