Firefighters' union warns report “must not be a smokescreen for cuts”

Reacting to the publication of a Government report into Avon Fire Authority, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has raised serious concerns regarding comments on operational response and warned that the report must not be a smokescreen for cuts.

The report, published today (19th July) and entitled ‘Statutory Inspection of Avon Fire and Rescue Authority’ comments on a number of areas and makes several recommendations. Amongst other areas, the report raises concerns about historical pay awards given to the Chief Fire Officer and other principal officers in Avon. Concerns about these payments were first raised by the FBU in 2015 who condemned them as ‘hypocrisy’ at a time when firefighters pay was being capped.

However the FBU says that the report’s author - a private consultant who specialises in “outsourcing and private sector involvement’ within the public sector - has overreached himself by suggesting that frontline fire cover be cut and fire stations downgraded within Avon.

Speaking after the report was published, Avon FBU rep Gary Spindler said “this was meant to be a report into the political governance of the fire authority, instead it champions a now discredited package of cuts to frontline cover and the downgrading of life saving fire stations. The report’s author, Dr Craig Baker, is a private consultant who has neither the experience nor the qualifications to comment on the deployment of operational fire cover. Firefighters in Avon will be appalled that after recent serious incidents like the Grenfell fire, the Government has published a report which talks about saving money by cutting firefighters.”

FBU rep for the South West region, Tam McFarlane added “the author of this report has overreached himself. He should have stuck to political matters and left operational matters to the professionals. In addition, we need clarity about the potential cost of this report and its recommendations. Who is going to pay for the two reviews, a ‘de-layering exercise’ and the introduction of a programme board etc. which the report demands? At a time when all fire services have seen massive budget cuts we need guarantees that additional resources will be made available to match any recommendations. No matter what, we want everyone to be clear, we will not allow this report to be a smokescreen for further cuts to life saving fire cover.”

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