CLEVELAND, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Sept. 24, 2012) - Cleveland's firefighters and emergency control room staff are expressing grave concerns regarding any proposed 'management' takeover of Cleveland fire brigade under the Conservative government's mutualisation agenda.
The drive towards some form of mutual fire and rescue service is a senior management driven initiative aided and abetted by an army of government funded consultants.
Despite management claims, there is no desire amongst firefighters and emergency control staff in Cleveland to adopt such a business model, indeed staff are extremely concerned it would not only lead to worse terms and conditions for themselves, but more importantly it could prove to be the stepping stone towards the eventual privatisation of a publicly owned, publicly governed essential emergency service.
No detailed information has been made public regarding the proposed business model, which suggests that senior managers and local fire authority members are conscious any move which could lead to the fire and rescue service ending up in private hands would be extremely unpopular with the local electorate and service users.
Firefighters and emergency control room staff agree with public opinion* that a service delivering local, regional and national resilience should not be placed in such a vulnerable position. They are astonished that a Labour controlled fire authority are considering a process which could even lead to the authority losing control over who provides the service in future as a consequence of existing procurement legislation.
Dave Howe, Fire Brigades Union Cleveland brigade secretary has stated: "We've already witnessed what happens when the private sector gets involved in the UK fire and rescue service. In London, AssetCo were responsible for the whole operational fleet of fire and rescue service vehicles and they were in the courtroom more than the boardroom trying to stave off bankruptcy. The same company had a contract cancelled in Lincolnshire because it couldn't deliver what it was meant to. I can't understand why any fire authority would consider a business model which might place them in a similar position in years to come."
Services such as this are subject to European procurement and tendering legislation; which means that at some point in time even a foreign private company could end up being responsible for the provision of the local fire and rescue service, contributing to both regional and national resilience. The fire authority would, because of the legislation have little scope for choice in this tendering process. Firefighters and control room staff are determined to retain the fire and rescue service as a publicly owned, publicly run service and not one subject to the profit making mantra of the private sector.
Senior managers have indicated they believe such a move will lead to improvements in service; what they really mean is simply an expansion of non fire and rescue services they intend to provide, for which they will charge, all of this no doubt increasing service workload in Cleveland fire brigade at a time when the whole of the UK fire and rescue service is under extreme pressure because of government cutbacks.
At a time when other fire and rescue services are campaigning for improved funding to finance their service provision, Cleveland fire brigade have been gifted vast sums of money which will no doubt be spent on consultancy fees rather than frontline services. Senior managers and fire authority members would be best off campaigning with other fire authorities to seek implementation of an appropriate funding mechanism that secures adequate levels of funding to ensure continued delivery of this first class frontline emergency service.
*"For the Public Good: How people want their public services to change" by Natan Doron and Andrew Harrop for the Fabien Society 22.08.2012