Reporting Back: Greater Manchester Corporate Issues Scrutiny meeting about Fire Services

Last month was the regular meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny Committee. This month the meeting largely focussed on issues around the Fire Service. 

Prestwich councillor Tim Pickstoneis one of Bury’s representatives on the Committee, and is also the Committee Chair this year. Tim reports: 

Greater Manchester Fire ‘Programme for Change’ Consultation Outcome 
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) is at the end of a long process of review which has been called the ‘Programme for Change’. 

The Committee received an update on the main issues coming out of the consultation that had been undertaken. Highlights were: 

– The comments from the public (including individuals, groups and organisations) and staff on the proposals were predominantly negative.
– The main issues amongst staff of GMFRS included the ridership numbers (proposals to reduce the numbers of fire fighters on somefire engines from 5 to 4) and increasing the role of the firefighter to include greater place based and partnership working. Operational firefighters also raised that they do not feel that they have the skills, training or expertise to deliver this work, as well as the potential conflict with operational duties – with there being a potentially detrimental impact on both operational incidents and training
– The main issue amongst the public was the reduction in overall number of fire engines in Greater Manchester, with repeat comments about not reducing below 48 (as quoted in the proposals) due to emerging risks of protracted moorland fires, high rise buildings, future developments and the threat of terrorism.

The Committee also heard from the Mayor’s Office, about the changes he was minded to make in response to the consultation. These included: 
– Retaining some specialist prevention staff, and allowing more time for fire prevention activities to be taken. 
– Looking for an alternative delivery model for the current cadets and volunteering programmes within GMFRS.
– Reducing the number of non-firefighter jobs that would be lost (113 to 60), and working across the Combined Authority to see if there were suitable jobs for people who were at risk. 
– No Fire Fighter redundancies until April 2020 – which means maintaining crewing levels of 5, 4 and 4 for fire stations that have three fire engines. 

There remains significant financial uncertainty for next year – a potential big pensions bill that nobody knows whether the Government will fund or not, and also whether or not the Mayor will want to propose an increase in the Fire element of Council Tax that we all pay. It may well be that some difficult decisions are going to have to be made when these processes are being considered early in 2020. 

HMICRFS Inspection of Greater Manchester Fire
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICRFS) undertakes inspections of fire and police services. This is a new merged inspection body, so the first time GMFRS have been inspected in this manner. 

The outcome of the inspection was:

“We are satisfied with some aspects of the performance of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service. But there are several areas where the service needs to make improvements.

Greater Manchester FRS requires improvement in its effectiveness at keeping people safe. It requires improvement at:

  • preventing fires and other risks;
  • protecting the public through fire regulation; and
  • responding to national risks.But we judge it to be good at understanding risk and at responding to emergencies.The service requires improvement to the efficiency of its service, in particular at making best use of resources. But it is good at making its service affordable now and in future.The way the service looks after its people requires improvement, in particular:
  • promoting the right values and culture;
  • getting the right people with the right skills; and
  • managing performance and developing leaders.And we judged the way it ensures fairness and promotes diversity to be inadequate. Overall, we would like to see improvements in the year ahead.”

The Committee agreed to in-particular receive more detailed progress updates from GMFRS on the culture within the service and on equality and diversity issues.

Hope that is useful. Papers for the meeting are here. Any questions please ask! 

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