Tag Archive for Cleveland Fire Brigade

Tom warns Government’s pension changes could put firefighters’ lives at risk

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop, warned that changes that the Government is making to firefighters’ pensions are built on the assumption of a dangerously low fitness standard.

Last night’s vote, in which Tom was a teller, saw the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats vote to increase the retirement age of firefighters and increase firefighters pension contributions.

The Williams Review, which the Government itself commissioned, states that the aerobic fitness measure the Government is basing their plans to increase retirement age on means “the risk of sudden catastrophic cardiac events increases… with a risk of sudden death particularly while undergoing high levels of physical exertion”. This flawed fitness standard would put firefighters needlessly at risk and fail to protect the public.

If a more robust fitness standard is implemented it would mean that the assumptions on which the Government’s pension regulations are based would no longer be valid. The result would be that a number of firefighters who try to maintain fitness would be unable to meet these operational standards into their late 50s through no fault of their own.

Tom has signed the early day motion against the regulations, put forward by the Labour Party frontbench, who secured the Parliamentary debate to hold the Government to account and oppose the regulations.

Tom said:
“The Government’s Firefighters’ pension regulations are not fit for purpose. They are based on an assumption about a dangerously low fitness standard, which would put public safety and the lives of firefighters at risk.

“The Tories can’t build a better future for working people because they stand up only for a privileged few. Firefighters risk their lives to save ours and they deserve better than this.”

Tom also warned that the raised retirement age was not the only threat facing the fire service in Cleveland:
“Cleveland fire brigade faces perhaps the largest set of risks in the whole UK, It covers a European centre for hazardous and flammable bulk chemical processing, it is the site of a major nuclear powers station and is home to large steelworks.

“Yet, the senior management of this brigade are seemingly hell-bent on a rush to effectively privatise the brigade, under the title of “mutualisation”.

“The concept of mutualisation means that once established it falls within the European competition regulations, regulations which mean that it would – at some point in the future – have to be openly tendered on the open market.

“A mutual involves a fixed term contract to provide a service. Even if the job transfers to the mutual, after a few years the contract will be put out to tender. Other firms, including big multinational companies, can and will bid to take the contract. They do not have to offer the existing staff a job, bringing the spectre of unemployment into a service that depends of experience and continuity.”

“Dire” figures show the need to “save our fire services”

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has today (25th February 2014) called on the Government to provide more support for Cleveland Fire Brigade after new figures revealed serious increases in fire related incidents.

In the latest District Performance Quarterly factsheet  (April – December 2013/14) ‘Total Fire Calls’ increased by over 54% from 1,985 in 2012/13 to over 3,000 in 2013/14. ‘Total Deliberate Fires’ also increased by almost 60% from 1,390 in 2012/13 to over 2,200 in 2013/14.

Tom said:
“These latest figures make for dire reading. Across the whole spectrum of performance indicators – bar one – things are getting worse. I believe they are proof of the immense pressure Cleveland Fire Brigade has been placed under, and that is before the latest round of Government cuts has been implemented.

“Despite Cleveland being one of the highest risk areas in England, and one of the most deprived, the Eric Pickles and his Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) are hitting it particularly hard. Already in this Parliament, the DCLG has imposed £4m of cumulative cuts on Cleveland, and is planning to impose a further £5.96m of cumulative cuts up to 2017/18.

“Cutting fire fighter numbers not only risks the Brigade’s ability to respond to emergencies, but also its ability to take proactive steps such as its community fire safety check scheme and its diversionary activities to reduce fire-related anti-social behaviour

“I have responded to the Fire Authority’s Community Integrated Management Plan to make a number of suggestions as to how the Authority should best use the limited resources it has and I feel particularly strongly that the Authority must do all it can do to avoid station closures and 25% reduction in the number of full-time firefighters that could see 130 full-time posts are being cut.

“I hope these performance indicators serve as a reminder the serious risk cuts to a life or death emergency service pose and I will continue to pressure the Government to see that Cleveland Fire Brigade gets its fair share of funding.”

Tom joins firefighters to oppose proposed job cuts and station closures

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today (8 February 2014) joined Cleveland firefighters, Fire Brigades Union President Alan McLean and Middlesbrough Labour MP Andy McDonald at a rally at the Bottle of Notes to oppose job cuts and station closures being forced onto Cleveland Fire Authority by the Tory-led Government. These cuts, which form part of the Fire Authority’s Community Integrated Risk Management Plan (CIRMP) 2014-18, are currently open to public consultation.

Tom said:
“Since David Cameron became Prime Minister, Tory Ministers have cut Cleveland Fire Authority’s central government funding by £4million. In the coming four years, they are proposing further cuts which will lead to a shortfall of nearly £6million. This puts fire services on Cleveland at risk; Cleveland Fire Authority is proposing to close Marine station, and to cut 130 firefighting whole-time posts.

“Whilst brigades in the South of England, like Essex, are having their budgets increased by the Tory-led Government, brigades in urban areas and the North are facing swingeing cuts. Cleveland, in particular, faces massive reductions in its funding from central government. This is totally inappropriate, given that Cleveland is the country’s highest risk area with one of the highest levels of deprivation.

“In Westminster, I will continue to campaign for a fairer funding settlement for Cleveland, whether that be for our NHS, for our local authorities, for our police force, or for our fire service. Funding formulae should properly take into account factors like deprivation and risk, rather than being tweaked for party political purposes by the Tories to divert funding to their wealthy heartlands in the South.

“Locally, I will be submitting a response to the CIRMP consultation, proposing alternatives to the Fire Authority in order to minimise front-line job losses. Specifically, I will urge the Authority to:

  • Reduce the number of senior managers, encouraging senior staff to exercise pay restraint
  • Prioritise the retention of stations and whole-time staffing over capital expenditure on new buildings. In particular, spending on non-operational buildings—such as a new Headquarters—is wholly unsatisfactory.
  • Explore sharing buildings, management staff and non-frontline staff with Cleveland Police, local authorities in Cleveland or neighbouring Fire Authorities.
  • Minimise the move from full-time to on-call firefighters. It is not satisfactory to replace whole-time firefighters with on-call staff, as on-call staff may take longer to respond to emergencies.
  • Abandon its costly, risky, unwanted and unnecessary proposals to spin-off the Brigade as a Public Service Mutual.”

Local residents can respond to the consultation by visting http://www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/have-your-say/ . They are also encouraged to sign the FBU’s petition against job losses and the closure of Marine station: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/oppose-the-cuts-in-cleveland-fire-brigade