Fire services ‘responded well’ to pandemic

Fire and rescue services have responded very well to the pandemic, with services maintaining their ability to respond to fires and many providing pandemic-specific support outside their statutory duties.

However, some fire services were “unable to maximise this support due to outdated and restrictive working practices within the sector”, according to inspectors. 

Cllr Ian Stephens, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said an agreement between fire chiefs, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and employers had provided a way for firefighters to respond to the pandemic and that fire authorities were proud of their work in supporting their communities.

“The National Employers played a pivotal role in bringing the National Fire Chiefs Councils and the FBU together after they had failed to reach an agreement on their own about what work could be carried out locally by firefighters,” he said.

“We share the disappointment that some activities took time to agree, but the tripartite and subsequent NJC agreement did enable activities to start, and then continue, so the fire service could respond to the pandemic. 

“By bringing together all fire and rescue services, the tripartite and NJC agreements provided a single arrangement rather than a piecemeal approach.

“Giving chief fire officers operational independence would not enable them to direct firefighters to undertake new activity. That could only be achieved with a change in their terms and conditions of employment.”

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