Plan To Recruit Reserve Firefighters In Cambs

Plans to recruit hundreds of reserve firefighters have been branded a waste of public money by the Fire Brigades Union

PLANS by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) to recruit hundreds of reserve firefighters to provide cover in the event of a serious emergency or strike action have been criticised as a waste of public money by the county’s Fire Brigades’ Union.

Phil McQuillan, chairman of the Cambridgeshire branch of the FBU, said the money would be far better spent on improving the facilities and conditions for the county’s front line crews.

Under the Civil Contingencies Act, CFRS has to ensure it has adequate cover in case of a strike or major incident. In 2003, the Ministry of Defence announced its oversees commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan meant it would no longer be able to provide cover in the shape of its Green Goddesses and forces across the country have been left without back-up cover.

In London, the fire authority has recently agreed a �12million five-year contract with private fire service company Assetco to provide 700 civilian firefighters, but Mr McQuillan says a similar move by CFRS would be too costly.

“We believe that the sort of money that would be used on companies like Assetco to provide cover for firefighters in the event of strike action could be much better spent on ensuring that the fire service in Cambridgeshire is the best service that it can be.

“We are of the opinion that a lot of public money could be used on this process that could be money spent on providing the resources that we have been asking for.

Most Read

“We feel that the authority should be sitting down and talking to us about this.”

Mr Mcquillan also raised concerns as to whether reserve fire-fighters hired by CFRS would have sufficient training to step in and provide adequate cover in the event of a strike and strongly rejected the idea that firefighters could or should be involved in training the reserve crews.

The Assetco force is made up of security guards who have had little training and will not be asked to wear breathing apparatus or enter burning buildings.

CFRS is one of only a handful of the UK’s 58 fire authorities that has responded to Government concerns and made moves to introduce cover for their front-line crews, known as resilience.

Neil Newberry, Assistant chief fire officer for CFRS said: “Every fire service now needs to make its own resilience arrangements to ensure that it can still perform its core duties in the event of large numbers of staff being unavailable for work for whatever reason.

“These arrangements will ensure that whatever happens, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service will still be able to attend emergency incidents where people’s lives are at risk.

“We are currently seeking to contract another company to provide us with this resilience, similar to arrangements London Fire Brigade has made. The tender is based on another supplier being able to provide enough trained personnel to crew four fire appliances 24/7.

“In addition to this we are also exploring other ways to ensure we have a resilient operational service.”

In a move likely to inflame full-time firefighters in London, Assetco’s reserve force will be asked to step in on Saturday and again on November 1 during eight-hour strike action. Assetco has already removed 27 fire engines, which incidentally it already owns as part of an earlier deal with the authority, and has them on standby.