Fire and rescue reforms a risk to public and staff, says UNISON

Union hits out at plans for England contained in government’s police and crime bill

The public will be at risk from planned government “reforms” fire and rescue services in England, UNISON has warned.

MPs are currently considering a Police and Crime Bill, which would allow police and crime commissioners to take responsibility for fire and rescue services, among other measures.

Home secretary Theresa May spelled out those measures in a speech tot he Reform think tank earlier this week.

She said the government’s plans also include:

  • a 1.6% cut in funds for fire and rescue services this year, with more to come every year to 2020;
  • creating a statutory duty on police, fire and ambulance services to “collaborate whenever it is in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness”;
  • giving more powers to fire inspectors and to the government to order inspections.

UNISON national secretary Heather Wakefield responded by pointing out that “fire and rescue services have already had six years of harsh spending cuts, which have led to job losses, fewer open fire stations and higher response times across the country, putting the public at risk.”

They have also hit UNISON members working as support staff to the service – leading to 4,000 leaving their jobs across Britain since 2010.

“Fire and rescue support staff do vital work in a variety of roles,” added Ms Wakefield, “which firefighters depend on when they put their lives at risk to keep us safe.”

UNISON welcomes more collaboration between the emergency services, which already happens, she added, “but not at the expense of fire and support staff, who will hit by these reforms and further cuts.”