Earlier this month was the regular meeting of Greater Manchester’s Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny Committee – specifically focussing on the proposals from Greater Manchester Fire for changes in the fire service going forwards.
Each of the three GM Scrutiny Committees consist of 15 councillors from across Greater Manchester (at the moment that is – 11 Labour, 3 Conservative 1 Lib Dem). Prestwich Lib Dem Councillor Tim Pickstone was elected Chair of the Scrutiny Committee for 2019-20, and reports back:
The meeting was held at the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Training and Safety Centre in Bury – the largest Fire-Fighter training facility in the UK. Before the meeting proper we had a tour of the facilities and demonstration of some of the fire-fighter training that takes place at the centre, including a demonstration of some of GM Fire’s new equipment for dealing with high rise fires. I would very much recommend that all schools take up the offer of free training provided by the centre which has some excellent facilities. Our meeting was held in the full-scale ‘street’ mock up inside the centre.
The meeting heard from the Greater Manchester Mayor’s office about the background to the review of the fire service. The Mayor is responsible for the Fire Service and the ‘Programme for Change’ review was commissioned with the aim of coming up with a programme to address the challenges faced by the service.
The consultation process on the Programme for Change has now finished, and final proposals are being developed. These proposals were:
– removal of six ‘2nd’ fire engines (Manchester Centre, Blackley, Heywood, Moss Side, Oldham and Eccles).
– Crewing level of 4 (as opposed to 5) on all fire engines
– Three station mergers (Bolton Central and Bolton North, Manchester Central and Phillips Park, and Stockport and Whitehill).
– For fire-fighters changes include a new shift system, more modern annual leave arrangements
– new delivery models for Prevention, Protection, Youth Engagement and Administration
Following the proposals, the Mayor of Greater Manchester wrote to Greater Manchester Councils and MPs to clarify that:
– there would be no reduction in the number of fire fighters from the May 2017 levels
– there would be no compulsory redundancies
The Scrutiny Committee had a lot of questions and comments on the proposals to the Chief Fire Officer and his team. There were a number of points that we wanted to look at further at a meeting which will take place before the Greater Manchester Authority makes further decisions on the proposals in the Autumn. These include:
– the ability of the fire service to cope with growth in Greater Manchester – more houses, more high-rises and the exceptional growth in the city centre areas in Manchester and Salford Quays.
– understand fully how GM Fire has responded to the issues raised by people in the consultation process
– understanding the financial issues around crewing levels and the sustainability of this going forwards into future years.