Fire Brigades Union response to the HMICFRS Fire and Rescue Service inspections 2018/19 Tranche 1

Matt Wrack, general secretary commented: “We welcome the regular inspection of fire and rescue services as part of the work of HMICFRS. It is absolutely right that fire and rescue services are held to high standards.

“The report findings are the stark reality of austerity– services are overstretched and under-resourced, and unable to fulfil key parts of their remit. It is a travesty that we no longer have enough staff or resources to carry out essential inspection and fire safety work to ensure that buildings are protected from fire. Since 2010, the number of fire safety inspectors has fallen by 28%, so it’s unsurprising that there has been such a drastic reduction in the number of fire safety audits. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cuts – we know firefighters are being asked to do more with less. Ministers must urgently invest in the fire and rescue service, and in particular in fire safety resources, to ensure that the public are kept safe.

“The findings rightly highlight the fragmentation of the fire and rescue service, and the difficulties this presents. Since there are no longer nationally set standards for fire and rescue, it is hard for any inspectorate to measure against a benchmark. Likewise, the findings reveal that fragmentation is resulting in a postcode lottery of 999 response times and standards, which simply isn’t fair on the public or on firefighters.

“It’s three and a half decades since women have been in operational roles in the fire and rescue service. It’s outrageous that in some services they don’t have even basic provision such as shower and changing facilities. Equality has stalled under this government and the previous coalition government, following the scrapping of government equality targets and the eradication of central policy and guidance which would support increased recruitment of diverse groups.

“The FBU has long campaigned for better working conditions for all firefighters, and things have changed dramatically over recent years, but there is still more to do. We’re concerned that some staff do not trust the grievance policies, which in our view, reflects on the failure of local employers to engage with the union.

“The report highlights a reduction in enforcement and prosecution on fire safety. But this is a direct result of government policy. This government has encouraged an approach of engagement, rather than enforcement - some services haven’t used their prosecution powers for two years. We must retain this power to properly enforce in law, where buildings are not safe.”

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