Addressing a Leeds North West Labour Party meeting last week, FBU Regional Officer Dave Williams highlighted the risks facing our Fire Service provision. These included privatisation, poorer conditions of service and proposals to ‘reorganise’ local fire-service provision.
On privatisation Mr Williams said that although efforts to privatise other fire services in the past had been unsuccessful, the national Fire Brigade College is currently being sold to the private management firm CAPITA – and that could lead to renewed privatisation efforts by some local authorities (thought not so far West Yorkshire).
On conditions of service for fire service staff – who until now have served for 30 years before retirement – there are proposals around for that to be extended to 40 years. Two matters of concern arising from this would be having firemen on call who were in their 60s (when physical fitness declines) and a new intake of younger men and women into the service could be postponed for another ten or more years.
Finally, on fire service reorganisation, the basic fear is that changes are being driven by financial cost rather than effective public service provision. Such changes could easily put public safety at risk, particularly in more crowded inner-city neighbourhoods where poor housing and other issues lead to a higher incidence of emergencies in which the fire service continues to have a crucial role to play.
We hope that in future the FBU and the Labour Party will work together closely on these and other issues facing our communities in NW Leeds and elsewhere.