The Fire Brigades Union thanks Royal Berkshire Fire Authority for the opportunity to comment on the draft IRMP Action Plan for 2011-12. The Fire Brigades Union comments are intended to be constructive.
The financial situation for Royal Berkshire Fire Authority at the close of the IRMP consultation period is healthier than at the commencement. The union believes that the Authority should now instruct the Chief Fire Officer to utilize the period of increased financial certainty to research the proposals more thoroughly and not implement front-line related changes too hastily. The rush to save in risk critical areas exposes Royal Berkshire Fire Authority to risk that could be avoided.
The following comments relate to the particular sections of the IRMP Action Plan (Consultation Document).
The Fire Brigades Union general observations on the 2011-12 IRMP Action Plan for Royal Berkshire Fire Authority are:
- Overall, fire engine attendance times to dwelling fires and road traffic collisions in Newbury, Reading, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Windsor and Slough will worsen.
- Fire engines will be delayed attending real fires in commercial premises.
- Wholetime fire engines will be crewing with four firefighters more often and subsequently will be able to achieve less at dynamic emergency incidents.
- The resilience for command and control of larger and protracted incidents will not be improved.
- The IRMP is not a properly integrated plan. Although there are plans to reduce and diminish service there is no justification as to why cuts in some areas are more acceptable than growth in other areas of the Authority’s budgetary plans.
- The approach to IRMP and to managing the budgetary pressures does not adequately reflect national guidance leaving the Authority exposed to criticism and may also be at the expense of the wellbeing of the general public as well as the firefighters.
- The plan has not adapted to the changing financing situation. It doesn’t seem right to the union that the removal of front-line resources are being planned whilst at the same time the Authority is planning to bank nearly one million pounds over two years to fund new buildings. It also doesn’t seem right that new non front-line posts are being introduced in the budgetary process whilst existing front-line posts are being removed in the IRMP process.
- If the Chairman’s comments in the foreword are to mean something then some of the proposed actions must be amended to ensure the front-line service is maintained.
- There should be a place in the IRMP documents to detail how performance is progressing against the baseline figures.
- The Authority should be reporting each year in the IRMP documents whether the changes being made in IRMP are improving performance.
- The Authority should ensure that there is consistency in reporting the statistics from year to year and where there are anomalies, these should be explained.
- The report that the environmental protection and firefighter decontamination procedures are improved should be justified or removed.
- The detailed review being undertaken to improve attendance times to dwelling fires should be an integral element of the IRMP Action Plan for 2011-12.
- If the Authority proposes to send wholetime appliances to lower risk calls on retained station grounds then this should be on the basis that it doesn’t adversely affect the response standards for dwelling fires and road traffic collisions.
- If the Authority proposes the benefits of reduced emergency response vehicle travel in one project but a consequence of another proposal is that it will increase, then criteria should be set so risk versus benefit can be assessed.
- A reduction in the number of officers available for emergency response and urgent managerial duties should not happen without detailed evidence and research.
- The Authority should not be proposing an IRMP project in relation to the number of officers on the false premise that it is required due to fewer incidents.
- If a model for officer cover does exist but doesn’t increase resilience from 9 to 11 whilst at the same time reducing numbers employed from 45 to 33, then the plans should be reconsidered.
- The Fire Authority should engage directly with the union to resolve issues in relation to the Officers’ Cover Review.
- If the Fire Authority intends for crewing on wholetime appliances to be reduced to four firefighters on more occasions, it should set criteria so a risk versus benefit assessment can be made.
- Royal Berkshire Fire Authority should adopt the nationally agreed CFOA protocol in relation to Automatic Fire Alarms and Unwanted Fire Signals.
- The Authority should not embark on a project that from the outset it is known will lead to inherent delays in emergency response to fires in commercial premises.
- Before progressing with the plans in relation to switch-crewing the Heavy Rescue vehicle the Authority should assess the financial benefits against the societal risks given there will be an adverse effect in relation to the dwelling fire and RTC response standards.
- Given the proposed savings are identified for 2013-14, rather than fixing the proposed Heavy Rescue Unit crewing arrangements in 2011, the Authority should monitor and revisit the Heavy Rescue Unit proposals once the 2013-14 finance settlement is known.
The Chairman states that the Authority is determined ‘to maintain our front-line service’. Yet in certain places in the Action Plan those front-line services are, to a degree, being eroded such as increased switch-crewing, delayed attendances to higher risk incidents and delayed attendances to fires at commercial premises. If the Chairman’s comments in the foreword are to mean something then some of the proposed actions must be amended to ensure the front-line service is maintained.
A lot of work was done in previous years in setting baseline figures for IRMP against the response standards. The idea was that there would be a rolling baseline figure that advanced by one year each year. The FBU is adamant that there should be a place in the IRMP documents to detail how performance is progressing against the baseline figures. The Authority should be reporting each year in the IRMP documents whether the changes being made in IRMP are improving performance.
Emergency Response. Page 8, Para 4.
Where is the evidence that the new system for the provision of environmental protection and firefighter decontamination is improved? The deployment time is longer under the new system. The report that the environmental protection and firefighter decontamination procedures are improved should be justified or removed.
Response to Road Traffic Collisions.
The figures on the graph on page 8 are at variance with the figures on the corresponding graph of the previous years IRMP. Yet they are intending to show the same figures. There is an error somewhere. The Authority should ensure that there is consistency in reporting the statistics from year to year and where there are anomalies, these should be explained.
Response to Dwelling Fires. Page 9, bottom.
The plan identifies that there is a detailed review underway to improve performance in relation to the attendance times at dwelling fires. The Fire Brigades Union is unaware of this review. The detailed review being undertaken to improve attendance times to dwelling fires should be an integral element of the IRMP Action Plan for 2011-12.
What we are going to do this year
Wholetime appliances attending lower risk calls on retained station grounds.
The Fire Brigades Union has strong reservations about the Authority progressing with this project. The areas of concern being:
- The only improvement here seems to be saving money. The union is not averse to finding efficiencies, especially when those efficiencies are recycled into increased firefighter and public safety. However, the people of Berkshire are likely to be more at risk given the negative effects on the response standards to the higher risk incidents. Has the Authority fully considered that if a wholetime appliance is attending a low risk incident on a retained station ground then it is not available for a higher risk incident on its own station ground where the likelihood of an incident is greater?
- There are mixed messages in relation to the overall IRMP proposals. Some 2011-12 IRMP projects identify a benefit of change being reduced vehicle movements and the consequent reduced road safety and environmental risks. It seems this project will deliver the opposite.
- Discrepancies between the potential savings identified in the IRMP Action Plan and the potential savings identified in the latest budget figures.
- Although it is clear to the union that there will be some savings, and if nothing is done and Retained appliances become more available as a result of Retained Support Officers, the costs will go up; the union still believes in the principle that the service should plan against the higher risks namely dwelling fires and road traffic collisions. If this policy is introduced attendance times to those higher risk incidents will be adversely affected to some extent.
If the Authority proposes to send wholetime appliances to lower risk calls on retained station grounds then this should be on the basis that it doesn’t adversely affect the response standards for dwelling fires and road traffic collisions.
If the Authority proposes the benefits of reduced emergency response vehicle travel in one project but a consequence of another proposal is that it will increase, then criteria should be set so risk versus benefit can be assessed.
Officers’ Cover Review. Page 18
The first paragraph clearly identifies a rationale for needing to review the number of officers as being linked to the reduction in the number of incidents being attended by Berkshire firefighters. Given the evidence indicates that the number of larger 4+ appliance incidents in remaining steady, if not rising, over the previous eight years; the reduction in incidents in general is clearly not a reason to review the number and deployment of officers. If it is about financing, as Principal Officers have told the union verbally, then just write that in the document as the primary driver for this project. The Authority should not be proposing an IRMP project in relation to the number of officers on the false premise that it is required due to fewer incidents.
The Fire Brigades Union does not understand how reducing the number of officers will enhance resilience as the end of paragraph 1 states.
The wording of the third paragraph should be amended. It states:
Should budgetary pressures require it a model exists that would phase a reduction in officer numbers from 45 to 33, producing predicted savings of £350,000 in year one to £697,000 per annum in year three. In this model the minimum number of officers on duty at any one time will increase from 9 to 11 with the shift pattern altering from a five week to a three week frequency.
That statement clearly says there is a model in existence that will do three things, namely:
- Reduce officer numbers from 45 to 33,
- Make savings rising to £697K.
- Increase the minimum number of officers available at any one time from 9 to 11.
Does a model exist that can do these three things? If a model for officer cover does exist but doesn’t increase resilience from 9 to 11 whilst at the same time reducing numbers employed from 45 to 33, then the plans should be reconsidered as that is what the Principal Officers told the Fire Authority could be delivered.
The union and its members have been told various things about this model. Different senior managers have told different officers’ representatives different things about the existence of this model.
The union has now been informed informally on 27 Jan 2011 that the service will reduce to forty officers working a five week rota as an interim measure on 1 Apr 2011. This will reduce minimum numbers from nine to eight and has been derived completely outside of IRMP and the Officers’ Cover Review. A reduction in the number of officers available for emergency response and urgent managerial duties should not happen without detailed evidence and research.
The union is willing to work with the service to derive a new officers’ rota. However, the union is experiencing an enormous loss of confidence in relationships with senior managers in recent months over this issue. In short one thing is being said in meetings and something else and detrimental is happening subsequently.
As a result, the union recommends that the Fire Authority should engage directly with the union to resolve issues in relation to the Officers’ Cover Review.
Closure of Cookham. Page 18
The plan says the appliances in Maidenhead would cover the Cookham area to the same level previously provided by the Cookham crew. Where is the evidence for this? As it identifies in the report on above (at the bottom of page 10) the cover would be to the same standard in the majority of areas but not in all areas.
The Protection review hadn’t been through challenge and subsequent consultation prior to the drafting of the 2011-12 IRMP Action Plan. The union is concerned that with a three week rota, there will not be 100% availability of Fire Safety officers with the proposed Protection department structure.
The Fire Brigades Union welcomes increased integration of protection into the everyday activities of firefighters.
The Fire Brigades Union notes the restructure of the Prevention department. The union queries the levels of the two station managers in the structure. If their role is similar to the work undertaken by the two current group managers, the union queries whether it can be achieved appropriately within the station manager role map. The Fire Brigades Union will work with the service to determine that.
The union believes that there is still more work to be done by the service to integrate better the prevention work done by operational staff on fire stations with the work done and being planned at service headquarters.
Formation of a Retained Support Unit
There is concern that forming the Retained Support Unit from the training reserve will almost certainly increase the number of occasions that wholetime appliances crew with four riders as opposed to the Authority’s policy aim of crewing with five. If the Fire Authority intends for crewing on wholetime appliances to be reduced to four firefighters on more occasions, it should set criteria so a risk versus benefit assessment can be made.
Attendance at Automatic Fire Alarm Incidents
The current proposals in the Action Plan will result in Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service not attending fires detected by fire alarms in commercial premises when first alerted. If the CFOA protocol were to be followed this would not occur.
The Fire Brigades Union believes this will affect the health and safety of responding firefighters should there be a dynamic emergency incident when the crew arrives. The Authority should not embark on a project that from the outset it is known will lead to inherent delays in emergency response to fires in commercial premises.
As the lead practitioner nationally in relation to this, Berkshire’s Chief Fire Officer has signed the CFOA protocol on the Fire and Rescue Service attendance to Automatic Fire Alarms and Unwanted Fire Signals, derived in partnership with the industry. In that document he writes the following: “we strongly recommend that all FRSs adopt and implement this protocol in its entirety as a part of their Integrated Risk Management Plans.” However, the proposals in this IRMP are at variance with this nationally derived protocol. The union believes that for Berkshire not to adopt the protocol in its entirety would be an embarrassment. More importantly, the protocol introduces greater risk control that what is currently being proposed in the IRMP Action Plan. Royal Berkshire Fire Authority should adopt the nationally agreed CFOA protocol in relation to Automatic Fire Alarms and Unwanted Fire Signals.
Switch-Crewing the Heavy Rescue Unit
The proposals do not indicate the reduction in service should this happen but does identify the financial savings. This is an IRMP document and if the authors have taken the time and effort to consider the savings they should balance this by showing the estimated sacrifice. Moreover, the Fire Authority members should have been informed of this in the drafting stages. Before progressing with the plans in relation to switch-crewing the Heavy Rescue vehicle the Authority should assess the financial benefits against the societal risks given there will be an adverse effect in relation to the dwelling fire and RTC response standards.
The Authority is aware that the Fire Brigades Union is opposed to switch-crewing front line fire engines with specialist appliances. If one is out and about but the other is needed for an emergency, there is a delay. Any delay in the response of an emergency appliance is unacceptable as people can die as a result, among them our own firefighters. There will be no comfort in ‘I told you so’ should there be a death that could have been prevented.
The union is not aware of any evidence showing that the trial that commenced in May 2010 identified switch-crewing the fire engine with the Heavy Rescue Unit is viable. As far as the union is aware it indicated that removal the Rescue Support Vehicles (and by inference the Heavy Rescue Vehicle) from smaller rescue incidents did not carry too much risk to the Authority; although the union does not concur with that conclusion. The trial involving the existing vehicle was conducted with the existing vehicle being permanently crewed. This proposal is for the crewing to be switched with a fire engine. So what evidence does Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service have from the trial that the proposal is viable? Also was there an effect on the performance against the dwelling fire response standards during this trial?
Newbury is a location where there are already greater difficulties attaining the Authority’s response standards. The statistics show this. Between 1 Sep. and 16 Dec. 2010 optimum dwelling fire response standards were met on sixteen percent of occasions in the Newbury area. It will get worse again should there be a frequency increase in switch-crewing fire engines with special appliances. The opposite is a risk too; should the fire engine be out and about there will be inherent delay in getting specialist equipment to many technical rescue incidents. The union is aware that managers are already talking about moving the Heavy Rescue Unit to Reading and switch-crewing it there with a fire engine as opposed to Newbury. Is this is what is meant by the word ‘currently’ in the section heading? If so the Authority should be unambiguous about its intentions in the IRMP document.
The union notes that the proposed savings for this project are in 2013 -14 and believes that given the proposed savings are identified for 2013-14, rather than fixing the proposed Heavy Rescue Unit crewing arrangements in 2011, the Authority should monitor and revisit the Heavy Rescue Unit proposals once the 2013-14 finance settlement is known. Should retained availability in the West of the county improve as a result of the IRMP then the risk in relation to this proposed project reduces. The Fire Brigades Union reiterates, however, that it does not support switch-crewing as a model for providing emergency response.
Fire Brigades Union – Berkshire (31 January 2011)
The Fire Brigades Union is holding mass meetings for firefighters all over the UK. They are part of the campaign against the government’s savage cuts and to defend our fire and rescue service.
The FBU is organising a contingent for the TUC’s demonstration on 26 March in London to defend our public services. Join us!
21 February – West Sussex
21 February – FBU regional office, East Sussex
22 February – Abbey Rangers, Addlestonemoor (next to Chertsey fire station)
22 February – Kent
16 March – Colwyn Bay fire station, North Wales
17 March – Cardiff Central fire station, South Wales
17 March – The Red Lion Morriston, Swansea, Mid & West Wales
Some venues to be confirmed. Speak to local brigade officials for details.
Meetings already held:
17 January – Malvern fire station, Hereford & Worcester
17 January – Telford fire station, Shropshire
18 January – West Bromwich fire station, West Midlands
18 January – Rugby fire station, Warwickshire
Response to First RBFRS Three Week Rota Proposals and Current Situation Regarding the IRMP Officer Cover Review
After sharing the proposed rota with the officer FBU members, 145 observations were made objecting to the proposals. Drawing these observations together and considering the issues involved, the FBU makes the following comments regarding the proposals as they currently are.
- The union believes that the Fire Authority has been misadvised into the understanding that approx. £700,000 of savings could be made and at the same time increase minimum officer resilience from nine to eleven. The union has requested to be provided with the ‘model’ identified in the IRMP project plan, to be advised that it does not exist. The union believes that the Chief Fire Officer now has an absolute duty to inform the Fire Authority of this.
- The union queries the immediate necessity of reducing the number of officers. The original parameter being ‘should budgetary pressure require it’. The obvious question being: does it still require this? The union believes that given the indicative local government finance settlement for 2011 and 2012, the Fire Authority has been afforded the time to look at this project more closely and broaden the parameters.
- The union does not believe that this project has properly defined success criteria for anything other than the amount of money that can be saved. As an IRMP project, success should be defined in terms of what can be achieved for the investments being made.
- The union understood the imperatives at the time this review was being planned and now believes the correct thing to do is to react and realign this project to the amended financial environment. Given what the union considers to be a vastly improved financial environment for 2011 and 2012 than that feared in October 2010 the constraints and parameters of this review should be broadened to include what has been referred to as ‘the day job’. Effectively the service has been provided an opportunity to do this by the Government and should take that opportunity.
- The union does not believe it is mathematically possible to reduce from forty-five to thirty three officers and have a minimum of eleven at any one time.
- The union queries the potential to realise the full savings indicated to the Fire Authority, especially if there is to be an increased number of non-operational managers.
- The union believes there are better ways of redesigning the officers’ rota than the one currently proposed.
- The union wants to get involved with better proposals but have been informed by the project manager that this can not be achieved through the project itself given the constraints of the project. For example, although the union was assured at the commencement of the project that a four-week rota would be drafted as an option, this is no longer possible within the constraints of the project (according to the project manager).
- Given the budgetary information the Chief Fire Officer shared with the union prior to 20 Oct 2010, the union believes there are other options available to the Fire Authority for 2011 and 2012 that will have less impact than reducing the number of officers.
10.The IRMP report identifies a reduced number of operational incidents as a driver for change in relation to Officer numbers. This is an entirely false assertion. The number of incidents attended by officers is remaining steady with modest variations up and down for the previous eight years.
11.The union is not sure of what the planning assumptions are. I.e. what scenarios will the planned number of officers designed to address? The union suggests the following: based on actual historic incidents, RBFRS should plan for the minimum number of officers in order to cater for the reasonable expectations of the following:
- One six pump incident with reliefs without recourse to recall or Thames Valley resilience.
- Two concurrent six pump incidents with recourse to recall and Thames Valley resilience for reliefs.
- One ten or twelve pump incident with recourse to recall and Thames Valley resilience for reliefs.
12.The union has still not seen the calculations that derive the proposed ridership factor of 1.3.
13.The union believes that the Chief Fire Officer has a clear responsibility to report to the Fire Authority how he believes the proposals would affect workloads. The union would be surprised if the Chief Fire Officer did not believe the impact would be adverse.
14.The union calculates that more than 27,000 hours of officer managerial time will be lost each year as a result of these proposals. The union believes that it is completely inappropriate to propose such changes without looking at the full effect of the proposals i.e. the day job. However, this is outside the terms of reference for the project manager.
15.The union is concerned that workloads for remaining officers will increase. RBFRS has, in the view of the FBU officers, been historically poor at controlling the increase in workloads for officers and does not see credible plans to address this as part of the proposals on the reduction of the officer numbers.
16.Officers are already working to capacity or in many cases beyond. With a reduced number of officers there is real concern that the workloads will increase further and adversely affect wellbeing.
17.If there is to be a reduction in the number of officers to the levels proposed, the union believes the service should research this in more depth before proceeding. Given the more positive financial position and given the risks to officer wellbeing, the union advises that the service has the time to proceed more cautiously than the current plans identify.
18.The union believes that with the proposed number of officers that will be lost, the service will suffer the results of increased ‘reactive management’ at the expense of ‘proactive management’. The union assumes that if the service had the choice it would choose a proactive management culture. The union believes that given the indicative finance settlements for 2011 and 2012 the service does currently have that choice.
19.The union has concerns that with thirty-three officers undertaking the work currently done by forty-seven (i.e. the current de facto number), there will be an increasing likelihood of fatigue affecting decision making
Individual Needs & Family Friendly
The agreed Conditions of Service are clear in relation to the officers’ rota in this area: ‘It should have regard to the special circumstances of individual employees and be family friendly.’
20.The union does not believe these conditions have been appropriately considered to date and indeed given the parameters of the project can not be appropriately addressed.
21.The leave arrangements for the proposed rota are rigid and will not facilitate sufficient time for leave when officers with families would like to take that leave. For example school summer holidays. With a little effort the current rota affords each officer with family needs the ability to take two weeks leave during the school summer holiday. The proposed rota does not afford that. The union believes that if the constraints of the project were relaxed, then a rota could be developed that is acceptable to the officers in terms of leave in school Summer holidays.
22.The union insists that officers’ with school age children are able to take their main leave periods during times the schools are on holiday. This will facilitate caring arrangements if the other parent is working and will also facilitate taking holidays.
23.One group of officers likely to be hit the most with the proposed rota comprises those who live outside the county or provide cover in an area other than where they live. In the proposed three week cycle there are two long periods where these officers would be away from their families. One of these periods is for approx. 82 hours and the other approx. 74 hours. Comparing this to the existing rota introduces a clear increase in the proportion of the rota cycle away from home for more than a consecutive forty-eight hours. The union refer to this as a Continuous Absence Factor. For the current rota this factor is 0.23. For the proposed rota it is more than a third higher at 0.31. The union officials can demonstrate to the project manager how these figures have been derived. Whilst the current rota arrangements are acceptable to these officers and the FBU, the proposed rota is not.
24.It is entirely foreseeable that due to the inflexibility of the leave selection as well as the increased frequency of seventy plus hours per week continuous duty in the proposed rota, that there will be increased strain on families and relationships as a result of its introduction.
25.The ability to take leave at weekends in the proposed rota is not a compensating factor to the officers. The union can work with the service to create a leave system that is likely to be acceptable to its members in terms of being family friendly but the current proposals are not agreeable to the union.
26.Some officers have partners who work at weekends. Given that the current rota has four out of five weekends free from duty, this is the best period for some of these partners to make themselves available for work. Additionally the current rota has more rota leave days than the proposed rota which again are days that can be utilised by the partners of officers to make themselves available for work. Decreasing these frequencies will adversely affect the work-life balance for these families and is likely to directly affect their household income in a high cost part of the country.
27.The proposed rota with longer periods away from home will seemingly increase costs for families.
28.The proposals seem likely to be less attractive for single parent families than the existing rota given the increase in long continuous periods of duty and the increased frequency of weekends.
The Rota (other than family and individual needs)
29.The proposed rota does not account for absences other than planned leave such as training courses, compensatory time off, sickness absences, pre and post-course leave, ADCs, PDIs, disciplines, court attendances.
30.The union believes that the review should consider the benefits of planning a rota with positive hours that straddle the busiest periods of operational activity for the officers and amend as appropriate.
31.Officers currently undertake work outside their rostered days to help make things work. The quid pro quo being that they are afforded compensatory time off generally at a time of convenience to the officer. The proposed rota is extremely tight and doesn’t currently incorporate this demand. The union’s concerns being that if the quid pro quo is not there then the officer will not do this work over and above rostered hours.
32.The proposed rota will be extremely difficult to manage and seems to be unnecessarily rigid. It is difficult to see a structure in the leave selection criteria. In the words of the project manager it is ‘extremely tight’, which the FBU assumes to equate to inflexible. At this point of design it doesn’t incorporate all the foreseeable absences so the rigidity will enhance as other factors are incorporated. The union believe it should be simplified to be workable and acceptable.
33.The problems with leave selection in the current rota are made worse in the proposed rota. For example, the current rota does not provide the ability to always have a level 3 or a level 4 officer available. The proposed rota seems to make this worse. The union can think of simple solutions that would guarantee one level 4 and two level 3 officers at all times (other than sickness and courses). However, the constraints of the rota prevent these being explored by the service.
34.The union believes that a tight rota such as the one proposed may detract from the maintenance of competence due to increased likelihood of disrupted training and development activities.
35.With the proposed rota some officers are likely to see the people they manage less frequently.
Officer Cover & Resilience
36.If the Chief Fire Officer aspires for a minimum of eleven officers on duty at any one time and can not achieve it, he should not be recommending an increase in the number of non-operational managers at the same time as losing operational managers.
37.The rota does not provide a minimum of eleven officers at all times that the IRMP report identified would occur.
38.The proposed rota is deeply unpopular with the officers and the voluntary recall facility for resilience would need to be tested in relation to the new rota, if introduced. Given what some members have communicated to the union this is a potential area of vulnerability in terms of resilience.
39.The average figures calculated by the project manager for the minimum number of officers on duty during the evenings and nights (10.64) are skewed by the effect of ‘doubling-up’ on Mondays. If this is taken into account it reduces to 9.46.
40.Typically, the number of officers available for the sixty-six weekend hours will increase from the current planned nine to a future planned nine or ten. For every other evening and night period (Monday 1700 hrs to Friday 0900 hrs), the numbers will decrease.
41.The planning criteria should be clear. The union believed that they were when the IRMP plan was drafted but as the project has progressed it has become unclear. For example, at the recent Principal Officer briefing of officers there were a variety of planning assumptions proposed by the Principal Officers from a minimum of seven to an aspiration of eleven. The union believes the service should determine the number of officers it wants and then plan to employ the correct number of people to achieve this at all foreseeable times.
42.The union believes that if the officers’ rota is to be changed then it would be an opportunity to correct some of the anomalies of the current rota. However, it seems these anomalies are being compounded. The constraints of the project are preventing these being appropriately explored.
43.The proposed rota does not guarantee a level 4 officer at all times. The planning assumptions, as far as the union is aware, requires a level 4 officer.
44.The proposed rota does not guarantee two level 3 officers at all times. Again the union believes this is required from the planning assumptions.
45.Currently the minimum planned number of officers is two in the West, two in the Central and three in the East. The proposed rota reduces this to one in the West, two in the Central and two in the East.
46.The union obviously accepts that operational cover is the priority. However, the proposed rota is so tight that officers are less likely to be allowed to come off-the-run or be on last call whilst undertaking a training session. The current practice being that this does happen. This will impact on costs if the training is disrupted and needs to be rescheduled and also on the maintenance of competence for any affected officers with the consequent effect on safety management. There are presumably some courses, such as driving and breathing apparatus courses, which would be very difficult to disrupt except in the most extreme circumstances.
47.When the project started the union was informed by ACFO Southern that it would determine what is needed in terms of operational cover and then plan how many officers needed to be employed to achieve this. The day job would not come into it – the service would look at operational requirements before fitting operational posts to managerial roles. This has not happened in this review. The proposed rota identifies an under-provision of level 3 and 4 officers to ensure their availability against the planning assumptions. It is proposed that the deficiencies would be made up by an over-provision of Principal Officers. The union proposes that the review should identify the correct number of officers at each particular level.
48.Although the union is aware that the Principal Officers have said they will ‘act down’ to fill the gaps in the rota, the union believes it is entirely inappropriate for this to be a part of planned activity. The Principal Officers do not undertake the same skills-based development activities as other officers and are also often out of the county.
49.The union can not see resilience in relation to Fire Safety complaints and enforcement.
The union believes that the proposals, if implemented as they currently are, would be objectionable to 100% of the officer membership. The union is concerned that the service has not fully considered the implications of this such as:
50.Reduction in loyalty to the organisation that would be manifested in not giving over and above contractual minima such as not staying on to get work done. Indeed, individual officers are informing the union officials that goodwill will stop if this rota is implemented.
51.Reduced motivation leading to reduced excellence and innovation.
52.The proposals will involve a complete overhaul of what is expected of officers and the amount of work that they can undertake.
Researchers who tracked 10,000 UK civil servants aged between 39 and 61 over 11 years, found overtime junkies were more prone to heart attacks and angina – even when factors such as age, weight and smoking were included.
The increased risk was linked to working between three and four hours extra on top of a normal seven-hour day – but not one to two hours. Lead researcher Dr Marianna Virtanen, from University College London, said: “Our findings suggest a link between working long hours and increased coronary heart disease risk, but more research is needed.”
The researchers put forward several explanations for the possible link.
These include undetected high blood pressure, stress, anxiety or depression, and being a driven, aggressive or irritable personality.
And they believe some who work overtime do so while they are ill because they are reluctant to call in sick. Cathy Ross, of the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, said: “This study raises further questions about how our working lives can influence our risk of heart disease.
“Stuck in the office we’ve less time to relax, get a good night’s sleep and do enough physical activity, all of which reduce stress and protect against heart disease.
“But there are simple ways to look after your heart at work, like a brisk walk at lunch, using stairs not the lift, or by swapping that biscuit for fruit.”
Dr John Challenor, of the Society of Occupational Medicine, said: “This study confirms what we know – that work/life balance plays a vital role in well being.”
Heart and circulatory disease is the UK’s single biggest killer accounting for more than 190,000 deaths a year.
The following is the FBU submission to the Fire Authority Management Committee held on Monday 24 January 2011:
The FBU fully recognises the budgetary pressures in the current financial climate. As previously stated, our opinion is that the “glass is half full” and we have urged that a cautious approach is taken when formulating future budgets.
The draft budget you are being asked to consider equates to a cut of £20,000 from the 2010/11 budget.
Given that there is such a small cut and that there is a pay freeze in place, the FBU has concerns as to the level of savings having to be made in order to balance the budget. We recognise that NI contributions will increase, but would challenge the need to make budget provisions for inflation, bank holidays and most of the bids made in the respective appendices. These could be delivered by continuing the current saving regime which was put into place at the direction of the authority. If £800K can be realised this year, then it is reasonable to say that given the above £500k can be realised in the 2011/12 cycle.
The FBU is of the opinion that the outcome of the grant settlement for RBFRS is the result of us already being one of the most efficient and value for money authorities. Having said that we should not be complacent as no one knows what is round the corner in years 3 and 4.
We are also surprised that for the first time ever, there is a line in the budget of increments of £181K whereas there is no line for salaries, surely the two go together.
The authority is on course to realise savings in excess of + £800K in the current budget despite employing 2 consultants on what looks like permanent contracts and having to work with 2 Officers over the establishment in order to deliver the authorities agenda. These savings have come about through many initiatives which have had an impact on the way we do things and by not filling vacancies. What do you propose to do with these savings? We note that the draft budget includes a “Contribution to capital development fund” of £542K which is somewhat short from the known savings.
Considering that the authority has in excess of £3M in reserves and is proposing to cut mainly uniformed front line jobs, the FBU has serious concerns that the authority is putting revenue money aside to for capital projects such as a new head quarters.
We are not accountants, but there are aspects of the draft budget proposal which cause us concern, namely:
PROPOSED REVENUE SAVINGS
- The level of savings being made as indicated in appendix C. Some of these are being rushed through without a full analysis of the impact on the service we deliver
- The LSI to CPD – money belongs to fire fighters and was ring fenced at the inception of CPD. If these levels have been maintained year on year then we suspect that original level of payment was not set correctly and should be reviewed
- Removal of London Fringe Allowance – Your fire fighters are facing a pay freeze for three years and it could be argued that in reality we have all taken a pay cut in real terms of 3% last year and 3.7% this year. This proposal equates to a 2.9% and 1.9% pay cut respectively for competent fire fighters and more for managers.
- Internal courses – removal of meal provision – It is an integral part of conditions that a meal is provided if we are away from our normal place of work. The removal of this provision will result in a lower morale and higher cost to the authority as we will be claiming an allowance as per the grey book which is more than the cost of providing the meals in the first place. Ironically it is proposed to maintain the provision of meals to members so as not to pay the higher entitlement of an allowance
- W/T appliances to low risk incidents on RDS station grounds – Although a £100K saving is estimated to be realised, there has been no analysis of the impact on the development of the fire nor just as importantly the impact on the morale of RDS fire fighters and the subsequent impact on their retention
- Fire Safety Enforcement – To our knowledge, no impact assessment on RBFRS ability to perform its statutory duties nor the impact on current personnel’s’ abilities and work loads has been carried out.
- Director Post – The £110K is dependent on the director retiring and does not address the issue whether, of all the directors posts, that is the most suitable to reduce
- HRU crewing – The loss of crewing of the Heavy Rescue Unit at Newbury will result in the loss of 12 uniformed posts and a worse service to the public in both rescue and fire intervention capabilities. Newbury already has the worst fire cover in the whole County and to switch crew the front line appliance with the HRU will only result in a worsening of service and a less safe system of work and environment for fire fighters. This is also contradictory to government expectations that front line services will not be cut.
- Officer rotas – There has been no analysis to substantiate the claims made in order to justify the reduction in officer numbers, the impact on safe systems of work, the impact on workloads or the impact on RBFRS to deliver a service when called upon. Furthermore, the proposal does not identify how many non-uniformed personnel will have to be employed and, as such, we believe that the £350K saving in year one will not be realised.
PROPOSED REVENUE BIDS
- Portable Generators – To our knowledge, there has been no power cut in recent history which had an adverse impact on our ability to deliver the service. Having said that, it is prudent to plan, but we would ask why do we need more than one generator?
- IRMP related premises costs – We do not understand why there are costs associated with Dee Road (not happening in year one), Wokingham (there is no disposal), Windsor (we are unaware of the disposal of the current site), Wargrave (not happening in year one)
- Information Manager – This work can be done by current uniformed Officers and it’s somewhat perverse that you are proposing to cut 12 Officer posts whilst at the same time wanting to employ more people to do work which can already be sourced from within the organisation.
- Projects/Planning Officer – Same as above and it should be noted that all the work done thus far in relation to this issued has been done by the very people you are trying to cut – uniformed Officers.
PROPOSED CAPITAL BIDS
At a time when we are cutting jobs, making people redundant, reducing the level of front line services we deliver, etc. the FBU finds it ironic and contemptuous that some of these bids have been proposed
- Security Fencing and gates – £110K is being asked for to upgrade the gates at five sites. The FBU recognises that the current provision is not ideal, but we also wish to confirm that it is adequate. To our knowledge there have been no issues with security at these sites and as for BHQ, if we are moving out, why replace the current gate? This level of expenditure on such items in the current climate is inadvisable and not welcome.
- Fire Alarms Station’s 1 and 20 – £124K, which we would take as being for a total replacement. Although we recognise the need to confirm to current legislation, we are confident that an upgrade would not cost anywhere near as much. We would also ask the question whether such work has indeed has to be carried out!
- Access Control System Upgrade – We accept it has to be renewed at some stage, but is this the right time? The system still works, has had no major failure, has not yet reached the end of its life and like all IT systems, its life can be prolonged. Additionally, there is key access to all premises should a failure occur.
- Light Vehicle Replacements – We support the provision of a modern fit for purpose fleet, but would like to see a replacement programme for the now aged off road support vehicles (Land Rovers) as they are being utilised on a more regular basis. Failing that, we would like to see the ongoing introduction of personnel carriers with an off road capability thus supporting RBFRS resilience during spate conditions
The FBU asks that the Authority directs its Managers to continue realising savings and evidence any potential cuts that may have to be made in the future. We do not accept that savings of the scale being indicated in the draft budget are required at this time. We should do the work in order to be prepared for such a time as they may be required. However, as most of this work is an IRMP issue, the work could be done now and placed on the shelf for a rainy day, but a risk assessment should be carried out at the appropriate time to reflect current assumptions – if worked on now and implemented later, the evidence will have changed as might have the risk.
The current position of rushing everything through by April 2011 is placing huge pressure on managers and having a negative impact on their workloads and wellbeing.
Your employees are at an all time low with regards to morale and worthiness. They have worked extremely hard and have demonstrated continuous commitment to the organisation, and yet they are treated as disposables and less important that capital projects
Finally, the FBU is continually asking to make its own proposals. However, despite the numerous ideas we have, we are unable to do so as we are refused an overview of the wider issues. We therefore ask the authority to consider including FBU Officials in the budget working parties so that we can really be an inclusive authority.
Politicians would love you to believe that technology can solve all the problems and allow for the taking of 999 emergency fire calls to be handled hundreds of miles away from the location of the caller or the incident, without the call handler having any local knowledge.
This is simply not true. Politicians love to use soundbites and hide away from the reality that confronts them.
The way people are making calls is changing rapidly. Automatic caller location technology can specific where a call is coming from when made from a landline, but not in all cases (further details below).
Calls made via mobile phones can be traced. Accuracy is within around 15 feet in towns and cities, but as the location of the caller becomes more rural so does the accuracy of the location information.
Plans for regional or sub-regional emergency fire controls are a delight for the politicians to speak of cost cutting to save on the U.K. national debt, but reality must take priority over public relations with regard to the U.K. Fire Service and the taking of emergency 999 fire calls.
The similarity of the statements of politicians of this and previous governments, compared to the reality shows a stark similarity to that found and reported by Richard P. Feyman when investigating the Challenger Shuttle Disaster of 1996:
‘It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask “What is the cause of management’s fantastic faith in the machinery? .. It would appear that, for whatever purpose, be it for internal or external consumption, the management of NASA exaggerates the reliability of its product, to the point of fantasy.” http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/docs/rogers-commission/Appendix-F.txt
“For a successful technology,” Feynman concluded, “reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”
Richard P. Feynman
NASA Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
Quite clearly to many professional Firefighters and Firefighters (Control) working within the U.K. Fire Service, politicians (both national and local), along with many in senior management roles within local fire authorities or local councils are making claims about which they have very little knowledge and persist in not wishing to listen to Firefighters and Firefighters (Control).
VOIP (voice over internet protocol) is relatively new way to make calls.
The calls are made via a desk phone or via a phone similar to a mobile phone. Calls are made by plugging the phone into any available internet socket or via a Wifi network.
However, importantly for the emergency services there is no automated caller location information available. This means that local knowledge is a pre-requisite requirement for taking such calls.
Not withstanding this, the VOIP calls can also have a number that roams with the phone, i.e. the number could relate to a Blackpool STD whilst being made from a hotel in Plymouth.
This further compounds any attempt or use of automated caller location systems to correctly locate the call, in fact it is impossible.
BT (British Telecom) have apparently stated that nationally three-hundred VOIP 999 calls are made per day (as at May 2010).
VOIP packages are becoming increasingly available to the public and businesses, with the use ever increasing.
Local knowledge is becoming more not less important for Fire Control staff when taking emergency 999 calls and dealing with incidents.
As any professional Firefighter (Control) will tell you, they use local knowledge on a daily basis for taking emergency 999 calls and dealing with radio traffic and messages from Firefighters at incidents.
To quote Gradwell Dot Com Ltd:
‘Calls to 999/112 Emergency Services
Gradwell Dot Com provides access to public emergency call services to all customers within England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
When you dial either 999 or 112, your call is routed from the Gradwell Dot Com network to national emergency operators who will handle your call. The emergency operator will ask for specific information to correctly transfer your call. You will need to state clearly and promptly the nature of your emergency, your location and phone number, and any other requested information. The emergency operator will then route your call to the appropriate emergency agency, such as:
- Fire Brigade
- Mountain Rescue
Update your 999/112 Emergency Response Address
Your Gradwell VoIP phone service is portable so it is important that you register the location of your device and keep it updated. This information should be visible to the Emergency Services so they can see what location assistance is required. You can make changes to your location information online via the Gradwell Dot Com control panel.
Where you use your Gradwell VoIP service in a fully nomadic manner – such as using a soft-phone on a laptop – we understand it may not be technically feasible to set the address of every location that you use the service from. In such cases you should be aware that the emergency operator will NOT know your location and you must provide this information to them verbally.
Over the coming years there is no doubt that VOIP telephones and call packages will become ever more popular.
As a result local knowledge for the taking of emergency 999 calls will be ever more important not less important and politicians in their naivity wish to imply.
Two elite sportsmen from New Malden fire station organised a cross country race on 20 January, which raised over £800 for the union’s London hardship fund. The FBU Hardship Fun Cross Country replaced a race usually staged by London Fire Brigade every autumn. And it is traditionally sponsored by AssetCo, now notorious among London firefighters for its strikebreaking role.
Not surprisingly, the Brigade’s race didn’t happen last year. So crew manager Andy Collins and watch manager Graham Adams – both keen running club members – decided to stage a 5-mile cross country run around Wimbledon Common to raise money for the London hardship fund. And they certainly weren’t going to approach AssetCo for sponsorship – Blakes, a local driving school, came up trumps. “We didn’t restrict the race to firefighters”, said Graham, a member of Belgrave Harriers. “We wanted people to have a fun day out. People from running clubs took part – but the day wasn’t just about winning. Firefighters have been through lot recently”.
There have been around 1,000 requests for hardship money. London Fire Brigade has deducted around £450,000 from FBU members for refusing to do any act management felt reasonable during the dispute – including acting up and volunteering for overtime. Many members lost 20 per cent of their monthly pay. So well done Graham, Andy and all those who took part or sponsored runners.
And very good to see Sian Griffiths, equality pioneer and union activist, running in the race. Sian was suspended from duty in November, just two days after being awarded the Queens Fire Service Medal at Buckingham Palace. Ever resourceful, Sian’s organising another hardship benefit with comedian Mark Thomas on 23 March.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary said: “We need to ensure that there is a big attendance from FBU members and their families.
Already our campaign coordinators in every region are looking at how this event can be built, transport arrangements etc.
Please think about coming along.” More details on the TUC website.
Courses available and assistance with learning to further your skills and knowledge.
Goto the FBU’s dedicated ULF website