Reaction from the Fire Brigades Union to the publication today (31 May) of the Auditor General’s report on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
Denise Christie, regional secretary of the FBU in Scotland, said:
"Many areas of this report are extremely concerning for firefighters and the communities of Scotland. The FBU are extremely proud of the work firefighters do but we have concerns about the management and funding of the service. Particularly, the £389m needed to maintain and invest in property, vehicles and equipment. This echoes concerns raised in a recent local area inspection of Glasgow by Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate in Scotland which found fire appliances were dated and cannot always accommodate the full range of firefighting equipment. It also revealed station refurbishments have been put on hold due to financial constraints leaving some in poor condition.
“The auditor’s report confirms that there are increasing demands on the service but fewer resources due to the loss of frontline firefighters to carry out work. This adds to increased pressures within the workforce and an increase in absence levels due to work-related stress. Those job cuts have also impacted on efforts to improve the diversity of the workforce. The proportion of women in operational roles do not compare favourably with other fire and rescue services. Similarly, the proportion of minority ethnic people employed by the SFRS remains unrepresentative of the communities we serve.
“The FBU has continually raised concerns over the need for sustainable funding and the impact a reduced workforce has on capacity levels to deliver any transformational proposals. This is reflected in our response to the SFRS ‘Your Service Your Voice’ consultation where we believe that the proposals, if adopted, would worsen service delivery.”
The FBU is sounding the alarm on many key points of concern from the Auditor General report into the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service including;
- Progress with developing and implementing the plans for service transformation has been steady but slow, due to a range of contributing factors including the need for sufficient funding to begin the implementation of change and the limited capacity and continuity for leading transformation projects.
- SFRS has inherited (from the eight indiviudal services that were merged to create SFRS in 2013) a backlog of £389m of work needed to maintain and invest in its property, vehicles and equipment. This backlog is insurmountable without transforming its current model for delivering services and additional investment.
- The available performance measures show signs of increasing demands on the SFRS since 2013, such as the number of fires, false alarms and non-fire incidents.
- If capital spending remains at 2017/18 levels the capital backlog will reach £406 million over the next ten years and the risk of asset failures, such as vehicle breakdowns, will increase significantly.
- To bring its property, vehicles and other assets across Scotland up to a minimum satisfactory condition and maintain them over the next ten years, the SFRS requires an average annual investment of £80.4 million.
- To simply ensure that current assets do not deteriorate any further than the current condition would require an annual investment of £37.8 million over the next ten years but this would mean the SFRS’s property, fleet and other assets do not meet the needs of a modern service. It is unlikely that funding will be available to achieve either of these options.
- It is imperative therefore that the SFRS uses transformation to review and develop options for how it can reshape its property, vehicles and equipment to meet the needs of a modern service while also being financially sustainable. This may mean closing, moving, sharing or changing the use of some of its properties as well as considering the range and deployment of its fleet of vehicles.
- The integration of the SFRS has reduced the percentage of posts held by women. Since 2014, female staff numbers have decreased by 13%.