Tag Archives: fire service

Fire Services: Campaigning in Local Communities and Parliament

As one of our lead members at the Local Government Association, I have worked to ensure that our national campaigns are linked to what’s happening in local communities. There are a variety of ways to do this, but I hope this article is a helpful example.

In 2015, the Conservative Government launched a consultation on a ‘joined up’ approach to Police and Fire Services. Nationally, Fire Brigade Union General Secretary Matt Wrack, in January 2016, described the national proposal as a “half baked suggestion” and accused “one or two” PCCs supporting the plan of “empire building”. He told the BBC: “There’s very little evidence, there’s no research been carried out, there’s no support for it among firefighters and there’s no support for it among police officers, there’s no support among local communities and yet the government seems to be intent on forcing it though.”

Here in York and North Yorkshire, these proposals led to the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner spending more than £140,000 on consultants to prepare a business case on and unwanted takeover of the local fire service. We have campaigned in our communities for a fair deal for local Fire Service funding, but the unpopular takeover took place following Government agreement in November 2018.

In order to campaign locally and nationally, I worked with Liberal Democrat peers, including Baroness Kath Pinnock as our national communities and fire services spokesperson, and Baroness Angela Harris, to table a motion of regret in the House of Lords and issue press releases. This debate took place on the 21st November 2018, where peers were asked if they regretted the decision by the Government to agree the takeover of North Yorkshire Fire Authority, following other takeover examples nationally.

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Reforming the fire service

 

The LibDems might explore the possibility of a policy of putting the fire service into the independent sector.  There are various models which could be considered.  One is that of the LifeBoats (RNLI), a charity which works under a Royal Charter and is run by volunteers on the front line but with paid headquarters staff. Another is that of mutualisation, the John Lewis model.  The need for reform is highlighted by the practice of firemen taking second jobs, which is not a trope of the  right-wing media but a fact about a self-serving, over-politicised and reactionary labour force.

In November 2015 the Fire Brigades Union re-affiliated with the UK Labour Party due to the union’s backing of the party’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn and his commitment to so-called anti-austerity politics.  John McDonnell, Corbyn’s far-left shadow chancellor, lends the FBU support in Parliament.  The fire service staff have a right to strike which they do not scruple to exercise.

The FBU routinely campaigns not only against financial austerity but Government measures in the field of fire safety.  It may claim to have expertise in such matters but, like the transport unions’ disruptive action purporting to be on grounds of safety, there will always be questions about the credibility of the FBU’s stance.  For example, the FBU has denounced the apparently dangerous policy of not requiring the installing of sprinklers in new schools, but the Government’s own policy on fire safety in schools puts a different complexion on the matter.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 47 Comments
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Recent Comments

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    Roger Lake, you do indeed have a bee in your bonnet, but to me UBI is a far weaker policy than many that our party...
  • User AvatarRoss McLean 23rd Sep - 12:34am
    I agree with John Grout. That speech by Naimh was memorable.
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    Bill le Breton, Kingston was a second tier target seat in 1997. So they received some outside support but members were not encouraged to go...
  • User Avatarfrankie 22nd Sep - 11:47pm
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  • User AvatarRoger Lake 22nd Sep - 11:10pm
    If we expect an election very soon, perhaps we should be looking forward to the next one, in 2024, perhaps? It looks quite possible that...
  • User AvatarJohn Grout 22nd Sep - 10:57pm
    I think Niamh O'Connell's standout speech from the Europe debate deserves a place in the list of favourites, among the speeches that actually happened. I...
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