Category Archives: Fire Service

The Crucifixion Cycle

And so it has started.

In truth it probably started a year or two ago, but various distractions have kept our blinkers in place.

The Crucifixion Cycle

Stage 1

Slash Resources

Government slashes the resources of the public body in question.  Be it NHS, Armed Forces, Police, Education, Coastguard, Fire Service, Probation…..the list just goes on and on.  They have all had their resources slashed to the bone (and possibly deeper) by this failing coalition government in the name of Austerity. Be under NO illusions, more cuts are coming, Gideon says so.

Stage 2

Highlight The Failings

Next Step is to commission a report highlighting the failings of said public body. Policy Exchange (other Think Tanks are widely available) are normally good at issuing reports that seem to support government’s plan of action.

Stage 3

Get the Press to Crucify the Public Body for Their Failings

Certain sectors of the British Press seem only too willing to publish articles, splashed across their front pages, or 1st item on the 10 o’clock news etc, crucifying the public body for their failings. They never seem to mention slashed resources at this stage, just how serious and awful the failings have been, whip up some public backlash, and launch a “heads should roll” theme to move it forward.

Police and NHS are currently suffering at the hands of Stage 3.  Whose turn next?

Stage 4

Privatisation.

These public bodies can’t be trusted to organise a beer-drinking event in a brewery.  Just look at the headlines at Stage 3. I know how to sort this out, we’ll privatise them.  We’ve got some Lords with interests in suitable private companies, let’s give them a shot at sorting it all out, perfect solution.

Am I wrong?

Is this NOT how it happens?

Where are you on the Wheel of Fortune?

Have you been crucified yet?

2015

“What’s so special about 2015?”  you may ask. It’s just a number, just another year, a bit like 1984 maybe.

2015 is the proposed date for the next General Election, but 2015 is so much more than that.  The next election is almost an irrelevance, no-one knows who to vote for any more any way.

In April 2015 the Civil Service Pension Scheme will change;

For those civil servants who move to the new 2015 scheme, the main features are:

  • A move to a ‘career average’ scheme, rather than ‘final salary’ for those currently in classicclassic plus and premium schemes. This means your benefits earned after April 2015 will be calculated in a different way. They will be based on an average of your earnings for each year you work until you leave or retire rather than the last salary you are on. nuvos is already a career average scheme.
  • A new ‘accrual rate’ of 2.32%. An ‘accrual rate’ is the percentage of your salary that the scheme puts aside each year towards your pension. The current rate for nuvos is 2.3%.
  • A new ‘Scheme Pension Age’ in line with your ‘State Pension Age’ (due to increase to 68 over time). This is the age at which you can draw your new scheme benefits in full. You would be able to retire earlier but your Civil Service pension would be reduced to reflect that it would be paid out for longer. The current Scheme Pension Age for nuvos is 65.

The current final salary police pension schemes will close from April 2015, with future accrual based on the new CARE model.

In a final salary scheme, your pension is typically worked out as a fraction of your final salary for each year of service. The ‘final salary’ used is generally the highest paid level of your last few years. For instance:

  • if you are in the Police Pension Scheme 1987, you receive a pension calculated as ((1/60th x the number of years up to 20) + (2/60 x the number of years served between 20 and 30 years)) x final pensionable pay
  • if you are in the New Police Pension Scheme 2006, you receive a pension calculated as 1/70th x final pensionable pay x years (up to a maximum of 35 years)

In a career average scheme, each year you build up a ‘slice’ of pension based on your salary in that year. At the end of each year, the slice is increased in line with the revaluation rate used for that scheme – typically either prices or earnings increases – to maintain the value of the pension earned. When a member finally retires, their total pension is calculated by adding up the slices of pension they have built up each year throughout their career.

April 2015 was also scheduled to be the date for implementing the new State Pension Scheme, of a Flat Rate Pension of £140 per week.  Reforms were expected to be introduced in 2015, however Prime Minister David Cameron has called for the reforms to be re-examined, according to the Financial Times, calling the expected deadline into question.

The Teachers’ Pension Scheme is also scheduled to change (not for the better perhaps) on 1st April 2015.

April 2015 also sees changes to the Firefighters Pension Scheme; another Career Average Scheme, much along the same lines as other Public Service Pensions.

David Cameron originally assured us that Coastguard Stations would begin to close in 2015, but now seems to have forgotten that promise and the closures have already begun. Rest assured though, I’m sure all scheduled closures will have happened by 2015.

The existing 35 local probation trusts are to be scrapped and replaced by a single, smaller, national probation service. They will also be replaced by 21 “government-owned companies” covering England and Wales that will invite bids from the private and voluntary sectors, including G4S and Serco, to take over existing probation work as well as the new rehabilitation programme for released short-sentenced prisoners. The plans are to be in place by the next general election in 2015.

From 2015 GCSE’s will be graded eight to one, instead of A* to G, and the pass mark will be higher.

There’ll be a move towards essay-based exams at the end of two years, instead of coursework and assessments during the course.

The content will be harder too – for example, English will require studying a 19th-Century novel and a whole Shakespeare play.

The armed forces budget is not safe from cuts after 2015, David Cameron has publicly admitted for the first time.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, is preparing a Spending Review for 2015/16 that has raised the prospect of more cuts in the Ministry of Defence budget, on top of those made by the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010.

Mr Cameron has previously insisted that “defence can’t be exempt all together from difficult decisions”.

Citizens Advice Bureaux may be forced to close if plans to change the system of civil legal aid go ahead. The Government’s proposals are intended to cut the legal aid bill by £350 million a year by 2015. Funding for a wide range of disputes – including some divorce, clinical negligence, and immigration where the person is not detained – would be axed.

Independent Living Fund

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) – which provides money to help people with disabilities live an independent life in the community – is to close in 2015.

Funding will be incorporated into local social care arrangements – through local councils in England and the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales.

People who already have ILF care packages will have to transfer to new local arrangements.

October 2015, Personal Independence Payment, Claimants aged 16-64 still receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will start to be contacted to claim Personal Independence Payment instead.

NHS Reform, to be completed by 2015, the reforms are partly designed to encourage greater involvement from the private sector and charities. In total, £1 of every £20 spent in the NHS goes to a non-NHS provider. The cost of the reform programme is £1.4bn.

Most of that will come in the next two years as more than 20,000 management and administration staff are made redundant from health authorities, PCTs and the Department of Health.

It could cost as much as £1bn to make redundancies. Another £400m will be spent on things such as IT and property in setting up the new consortia.

But the government claims the cost will be more than offset by savings.

The reduction in staff alone will save £5bn by 2015, according to the government’s own costings.

So, do you still think that 2015 is just a number like any other, or could it be that our wonderful ConDem Coalition government have completely lost sight of ethics and principles, and are in an indecent haste to reform everything in sight prior to the next election in 2015.  Bring on the Monster Raving Loony Party I say.

Cynical? Me?

Now I’m a cynical, sceptical old soul, but there are things going on (some may say many) in the world of government that I don’t understand.

Police Service – As much as possible seems to be in the process of being identified by privatising, probably to G4S. Budgets slashed by 20% and thousands of Police posts have to go across England and Wales.

Armed Forces – Too many Strategic Defence Reviews, servicemen being laid off, Armed Forces now at their lowest strength for decades.

NHS – Again, ripe for privatisation. Just look to see who the directors are of the companies in line to benefit.

Who is destroying our NHS

Who is destroying our NHS

And I don’t understand why, at a time when demand on Accident and Emergency Units has never been greater, A&Es across the country are being closed down. Does that make any kind of sense?

Target time to be seen in A&E is apparently now 4 hours. Nobody should have to wait 4 hours to be seen in A&E.

Probation Services – Being Privatised, again to G4S amongst others, and a Social Media Gagging Order imposed upon Probation Officers by Chris Grayling just in case they’re upset by what’s going and might want to Tweet about it, so I’ll do it for them, he hasn’t managed to gag me.

Coastguard Service – Coastguard Stations being closed down, service streamlined, Search and Rescue operations Privatised to an American Company.

Fire and Rescue Service – Fire Stations closed down, Fire Engines sold off or mothballed, jobs at risk or been lost.

Education – Schools turned into Academies, judged by complex League Tables. We nearly had to ditch GCSEs and create an English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC), but Gove backed down on that one.  The National Union of Teachers has also warned that 2015 will bring an “unmanageable level of change which could lead to a collapse of the system.”

G4S are now teaching and looking after our children. Are we all mad?  A Blog by Tom Pride, read the full article Here

Banks – Apparently responsible for a lot of the mess this country now finds itself in, making huge losses still, some of them, but still manage to pay out millions in bonuses. How does it work that you get paid a bonus for making a loss?  And still they are not lending enough to ordinary folk to kick-start the economy and get the housing market moving again.

My first question is ‘Are they changing too much, all at the same time?’ This is a government that seems hell-bent on reforming everything in sight before the next election and its inevitable result. Naive? Arrogant? Greedy? Self-Serving? All of the above?

My second question is this; Why, in times of austerity when ‘We’re All In This Together’ are we laying folk off, privatising public services that have served us well for generations, closing down public buildings, letting foreign companies come in and run certain aspects of the service, all because the country cannot afford to maintain these services at their existing levels, why then do the government then reduce Income Tax for the richest people. Those who earn the most now pay less Income Tax, 45p in the pound instead of 50p.

This might not sound much, but is it going to provide an incentive for the richest folk to spend more? I don’t think so. Is it going to give you and I the incentive to go out and spend more? I don’t think so.

Why not consider having a two tier VAT system like certain European countries do; 20% for most things, but 5.5% for Restaurants, Bars, Home Improvements etc etc, giving folk the incentive to eat out more, employ builders more because the VAT bill is nothing like so big, and that’s just the beginning.

Raising Taxes is never going to be a Vote Winner, never has been, but we’re seldom in the pickle we are now.  Once these services are Privatised they are very unlikely to be unpicked and put back into National ownership again.  As long as it was fair I think I personally would prefer to pay a modest sum more each year in taxes and keep British Public Services in Public, British, ownership. There is nothing wrong with making these services as efficient as they can possibly be, but Police, Fire, NHS, Teachers, Armed Forces etc etc are NOT BUSINESSES. They cannot be run like businesses, they should not be treated like businesses. They are not for profit, but if G4S, amongst others, come in, make no mistake their first priority will be to make a profit for their shareholders, anything else will be secondary, less important.

Lobby your MP, sign all the petitions you can find, demonstrate peacefully when the opportunity arises, make your voice heard. The government are getting away with this massacre because not enough people are standing up to them. they are behaving like playground bullies, and we don’t like bullies do we?

If we don’t these services will be irrevocably changed and some may disappear forever.

When will they ever learn?

Way back in November I last wrote about the Fire Service.

By way of an update it seems that there was a vote last month.

Plans to close 12 fire stations with the loss of 520 jobs have been rejected by the London Fire Authority.

After a fierce debate the proposals – aimed at saving £45m over the next two years – were rejected.

The authority voted by 9-8 in favour of a Labour amendment deleting any references to station closures, appliance reductions and job losses in any future public consultation.

That seems quite emphatic to me, not the result of the vote, but the scope of the amendment.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has ultimate power over the fire authority, said he will “ensure” the consultation continues.

The mayor said: “I am of course always willing to listen to submissions, but it’s quite clear today’s decision offers nothing positive, indeed it demonstrates a complete lack of leadership.

“This must and will be about improving London’s fire service, equipping the brigade for the challenges of 21st century firefighting, and maintaining our exceptional response times across both inner and outer London.

This consultation will continue as planned. I will be issuing a mayoral directive to ensure it does.

This last sentence bothers me.  Is this Democracy, Autocracy or just plain Bullying?  I obviously need to be retrained (again) as it doesn’t sit well with I thought Democracy was about.

Labour said its members on the fire authority voted against the proposals because they believed they would jeopardise safety and in my opinion this is right and proper.

Firefighters who attended helicopter crash are among those facing the axe through Mayor Boris’s cuts. 

We mustn’t get over-emotional, these things thankfully don’t happen every day.  However we do need to be prepared for what MIGHT happen.  I was long ago told that my job was not so much about what I did on any given day but what I might be called upon to do on ANY day of ANY year.  Yes, I know these contingencies are expensive, but can we really afford NOT to have them in place.  If this is so then the Fire Brigade, Police, Ambulance, NHS, Armed Forces, Coastguard, Prison Officers – ANY public service carrying out contingency plans may as well give up and stop doing it because those plans assume a certain level of service.  If, for example, Mayor Boris goes ahead and closes his 12 Fire Stations in London Ambulance, Hospitals and Police will probably have half their contingency plans thrown into disarray because the Fire Engines they’ve counted on won’t be there.  Back to the Chaos Theory – this time Boris flaps his wings and London suffers somewhere.

The latest news on this sorry affair is this

Mayor under fire from London councils over station closure plans

Kensington and Chelsea [the richest Borough in the UK I believe] has become the latest London borough to oppose Boris Johnson’s cost-cutting plans to close 12 of the capital’s fire stations.  Under the Mayor’s proposals, Knightsbridge will be closed, while one of Chelsea fire station’s two pumps will be removed under the Fifth London Safety Plan.

Boris Johnson will use legal powers to force cuts to London Fire Service

Boris Johnson will drive through plans to axe 12 fire stations, 18 engines and 520 jobs after his own fire authority voted against the proposal. Local stations of Knightsbridge and Westminster are numbered amongst these.The Mayor is to take the unprecedented step of using his legal power of direction to force his proposals to be consulted upon. Johnson criticised the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority for showing a “complete lack of leadership” by rejecting his plans to save £45 million from the fire service budget over two years.

We know what the Conservative definition of ‘Consultation is.  All I know is that casting my battered memory back to my schooldays when kids behaved like this in the playground they were branded BULLIES.  Now, I don’t know if Boris is, or ever has been, a bully, but shurely Democracy it ain’t.

Raising taxes is never popular whichever government proposes.  However, according to the most recent UK Census the working population of the UK is just over 38 million.  Surely increasing Income Tax and Council Tax by a small, affordable amount will save SOME of these services, and is infinitely preferable to industrial-scale redundancies, pay freezes, chipping away at pay scales, reducing pensions.  At a rough guess £10-£15 per year per working adult won’t solve all the problems but SURELY it will make some kind of impact and folk would be better off in the long run.

I’ve said it many times before, I’m no economist, maybe that shows, maybe I’m being naive, maybe it wouldn’t work, but it seems far more palatable than some of the alternatives.

There’s No Fire Without Smoke

OK, so it’s not the best title for a blog ever, but it does the job.

I have mentioned in at least one previous blog my concerns for the future of the Fire and Rescue Service.  If anything I’m more concerned now than I was then.  I fully accept that Fire and Rescue services all over the country are facing cutbacks of varying scales of enormity and significance and the the regional FBU offices are doing everything within their power to reduce the impact of these totally risky cost-cutting exercises

I do, however want to concentrate on London.  I used to live and work in London, before I discovered the countryside.  Over the years I have come to realise just how much we rely on our Fire Service, even when we don’t have an emergency we don’t know when the next one will be.

Before we settled here we lived in France for 5 years.  We had a modest, chalet-style house set in a forest 2,000 feet above sea level.  There was a lot of wood used in the construction of our house and we were surrounded on three sides by oak, beech and pine trees.  If ever there was a potential for a fire, it was there.  Fortunately we never experienced a fire close up, but there were plenty of forest fires nearby, particularly in the tinder dry summers.

We saw our local fire-fighters once a year when they knocked on the door just before Christmas selling the Pompiers’ calendar for the following year.  Let me tell you, I bought one of those things every year.  Firstly our local fire-fighters were all part time retained fire-fighters, and secondly if we had been unfortunate enough to have a fire it would have taken them a MINIMUM of 30 minutes to get to us.  A forest fire, or a house fire within a forest, can develop an awful lot in half an hour, and it is for that reason mainly that my respect for fire-fighters grew larger.

I’d always been around fire-fighters, my ex brother-in-law was one, the Fire Station was only 100 yards away from the nick and we were always having to cover for them until the Green Godess arrived, when they went on strike.

Then last week I found this item from the Socialist Equality Party, whoever they may be;

London Fire Brigade proposes closing a quarter of its stations

A Quarter???

London mayor Boris Johnson announced last month that the London Fire and Rescue Service must reduce spending by £65 million over the next two years.  A number of the proposals for achieving this that have been leaked to the press will all involve drastic cuts to staff and services. What is being demanded is nearly a 15 percent cut from the service’s £448 million annual budget.

The letter stated bluntly that it would not be possible to make the required cuts without cutting from frontline services.

Frontline services being cut, where have we heard that before?

King Boris apparently outlined 2 options for achieving the necessary cuts. Under the first plan, 30 fire stations would close and 30 engines would be removed, with a loss of 840 jobs. The second plan would involve the closure of 13 stations, the removal of 30 engines and the loss of 704 jobs. The projected closures cover around one third of the capital’s 112 fire stations.

I believe that one of the criteria used for identifying suitable stations to close was to identify the quietest stations in terms of number of callouts per year.  This would mean that Heathrow, the 5th quietest in London apparently, would be eligible for closure.  Would anybody really suggest closing Heathrow Fire Station?

Disgracefully, the demand for cuts was justified on the grounds of “the declining number of fire deaths”. These have fallen from 81 in 2001 to 55 in 2011, with 28 in 2012 up till the end of August.

A spokesman for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said “Clearly the idea of basing decisions on risk has gone out of the window and they are going to cut their cloth according to their budget. It’s going to have major implications for safety. Already five boroughs don’t hit their attendance times for the first vehicle and five don’t hit them for the second vehicle. What they’re proposing is slashing a service that has already been cut back over the last few years.”

In 2009, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority awarded a five-year contract worth £12 million to AssetCo to provide frontline fire-fighters. The company already owned and maintained all of the frontline fire and rescue vehicles and operational equipment used in London and Lincolnshire. The Evening Standard identified this as ”£9 million for 700 reserve strike-busting fire-fighters.”  Sure enough, AssetCo strikebreakers were deployed against London fire-fighters striking against imposed cost-cutting roster and shift changes a year later.

The FBU are running a postcard campaign, asking everyone to get in touch with their MP to lobby them to get these cuts stopped and keep this emergency service running at the standard we pay taxes for. You can quickly email your MP using write to them,

The Police got their Pension Petition past the post, if you agree that this is a disgrace please consider signing the Fire Brigade’s petition against closing London Fire Stations

Whilst not in London, this article here shows what is current, now, in Birmingham another major city suffering the same sort of threats to their Fire Service.

Updating The Big Picture

Most of the blogs I read are Police-related.  The main reason for that is because that’s my background.

Earlier this year Steve and I decided that we’d give The Big Picture a try in an attempt to get some information out there about what else is going on in Public Sector Land.  We’ve featured articles on the NHS, Fire Service, Prison Service, Criminal Justice Sector, Interpreters, and I believe even HM Coastguard might have got a mention.

We have also included items on the con that is known as Privatisation and the effect that Think Tanks can have,

Most recently we have concentrated on a short series of articles on Government Wastage.  We have tried not to be party political, although this current ConDem coalition does just keep on giving (when they’re not taking away from us that is).  Waste by ANY Government on the scale that we have highlighted is extravagant, hypocritical, incompetent and bordering on the criminal.  The worst example that we have featured is the NHS IT debacle at £12 Billion.  I don’t need to point out that these wastages are cumulative and that their effects continue on and have made the cutbacks that we are suffering proportionately worse.

I am fully aware of the role that the global banking industry has played in the recession and austerity, but I do hold successive governments partly and directly responsible.  The Metropolitan Police for example are struggling to make £500 million of savings.  I’m quite sure that there will be job losses and overtime restrictions involved to a greater or lesser extent.  The last 2 governments have wasted 24 times that amount on the NHS IT farce alone.  Aircraft Carriers (avoidable) and Chinook Helicopters (avoidable) added together exceed the Met’s target savings.

To take things forward and evolve we’d like to involve you, our reader.  We’re quite happy to carry on doing what we’re doing.  What we’d like you to do is simply RT the blogs as much as you can, not because we like big numbers, but we want to spread the message as far as possible

Feel free to use the comments section at the bottom of this blog to give us any kind of feedback you think we deserve.  We’re both too old to need smoke blowing, but if you like it, let us know.  If you think we could do things a bit differently you can let us know that too.

If you have any suggestions for subject matters that you think we might like to look at by all means include those.  I’m not promising that we’ll feature them but I will promise that we’ll look into them.

Finally, much like the manyvoices blog that I’m sure you’re all aware of, if any of you wish to contribute an article anonymously that fits in with our ethos then let us have that too.

Don’t Do As I Do, Do As I Say!! Or Else

This is the 1st of our short series of blogs into the hypocrisy that is Government Wastage.

Everybody, but everybody (except MPs of course) are having to pull in their belts.  Spend a bit less at the shops each week, let the car get a bit older before it’s changed, you get the picture.

Public Authorities are universally being told to save money, spend less, outsource, any number of crazy schemes from Mr Crazy and his ConDem Coalition government.

The subject of today’s blog is wastage in the Fire and Rescue Service.

This story is from a year ago,  maybe you’ve seen it before, maybe you haven’t, but I’ll try and put it in perspective.

In September 2011 the Public Accounts Committee declared that Prezza’s FireControl scheme (a private finance initiative to replace England’s 46 emergency call centres with nine regional sites) had not met ANY of its objectives.  I’m not really bothered which party folk want to blame, Labour started it and the ConDems killed it off.  The plan to replace 46 smaller control rooms was scrapped in December 2010.  Margaret Hodge, who chairs the MPs’ committee, said the project had been “flawed from the outset” and one of the worst wastes of public money for many years.”

“The taxpayer has lost nearly half a billion pounds and eight of the completed regional control centres remain as empty and costly white elephants.”

Half a Billion pounds down, what could be worse?

Well, I’ll tell you what could be worse,

The £55,000 PER DAY you and I are paying in rents for the empty control rooms is how it could be worse.

Every day we are wasting the equivalent of 1.5 PC’s annual salary paying rent on empty buildings. The rent commitments mean the taxpayer is now paying £1.4m each month on the empty buildings at a time when the government is implementing swingeing cuts.

Surely that’s as bad as it gets, it can’t get worse than that can it?  You bet your sweet bippy it can;

According to the Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack “Rent has been paid on the buildings since July 2007 and the taxpayer is contractually tied into paying rent until 2033 when the leases expire”

Yes, that’s right 2033.

That means that by 2033 we will have paid £401,500,000

Six of the nine buildings are owned by off-shore property companies based in Jersey, according to research by the FBU.

It’s good to know that we’re all in this together.  How many PCs, Nurses, Doctors, Teachers etc could be paid for out of this wastage?  But this is last year’s story, maybe it’s got better since then.