Plans by Cambs Fire and Rescue Service to recruit reserve firefighters branded a waste of money
PLANS by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to recruit hundreds of reserve firefighters have been criticised as a waste of public money by the county’s Fire Brigades’ Union.
It was hoped that back-up firefighters could be used in the event of a serious emergency or strike action but Phil McQuillan, chairman of the Cambridgeshire branch of the FBU said the money would be far better spent on improving facilities and conditions for frontline crews.
Under the Civil Contingencies Act, CFRS has to ensure it has adequate cover in case of a strike or major incident.
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.
Mr McQuillan said: “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.
“We feel that the authority should be sitting down and talking to us about this.”
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Mr Mcquillan also raised concerns as to whether reserve firefighters 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.
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 frontline 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.”