Scottish fire service responds to ‘inaccurate information’
THE SCOTTISH Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) corrected a series of ‘public comments’ that it called ‘broad brush and largely inaccurate’ in the media.
On its website, SFRS stated that ‘many public comments have been made recently about the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service which are broad brush and largely inaccurate, and which have been repeated in the Scottish Parliament and through the media. The Service, and all those who work within, are committed to delivering significant improvements to the safety of the people of Scotland, through the broadest range of skills and the highest level of professional standards’.
It added: ‘It is therefore important to us that we correct inaccurate information whenever possible and ensure our communities have access to clear and plain facts. The views of the Scottish public matter to us and they deserve to be able to make a considered view about the Service and our vision for transformation.’
In response, it published the ‘incorrect claims’ and gave its response in another section of its website, calling this the ‘plain facts’. The first claim is that it is a ‘service in decline’, to which it responded that SFRS ‘has – and will continue to – deliver real improvements to the safety of the people of Scotland’, with the total number of fires down 40% ‘in the last decade’, while fire casualties are down 31% in the same period.
On this same note, it cited other statistics including: 334,767 home fire safety visits carried out from 2013 to 2017; 271,027 smoke alarms installed in homes from 2013 to 2017; that 94% of the Scottish public trust the service ‘a lot’; and that 89% of the Scottish public think SFRS is an ‘efficient public service’.
The second claim contested is that ‘over 700 firefighter positions have been lost since 2013’, with SFRS responding that the creation of its single service ‘saw us remove workforce duplication through a planned and managed programme’. This saw 136 new full time firefighters recruited this year, a ‘planned adjustment’ of 128 full time firefighter posts since 2013, and the fact that Scotland ‘now has more retained firefighters than ever before’.
Third of five claims it listed was that ‘combining eight control rooms to three has affected service’, SFRS contesting this by stating that its operations control firefighters ‘are the unseen frontline, saving lives through their training, skills and professional dedication’. By investing £10m in ‘state of the art’ facilities’ and technology, SFRS has ‘provided more efficient and resilient’ delivery of operations control, ‘responds to every single emergency’ and has ‘sent the correct resource’ to each.
A fourth claim was that SFRS has ‘not spoken to its staff about transformation’, SFRS responding that ‘we have been, and will continue to be, open and honest with our staff, ensuring they have the information they need as well as [the] opportunity to take part in discussion and give their views’. The chair of SFRS also wrote to ‘every individual employee’ in July as part of ‘transformation engagement’, while face to face meetings nationally have been undertaken with senior managers.
On this same note, SFRS directors have continued to ‘engage with crews across the country’ with 70 station visits, while a ‘detailed’ information section on a staff intranet has seen 17,500 hits since August. Finally, an online forum was set up for staff to ‘directly share views, suggestions and debate’, which has seen over 30,000 engagements’.
Its final rebuttal was that it has ‘not engaged the Fire Brigades Union’ (FBU), SFRS stating that the FBU has ‘played a key role in the creation of SFRS’, which is ‘committed to continuing positive and open dialogue and respecting the negotiating arrangements’. SFRS has engaged Scottish FBU officials ‘on a regular basis’, and ‘shared all details of transformation’, formally inviting general secretary Matt Wrack to ‘negotiate on four separate occasions’ and inviting him to ‘negotiate for the benefit of Scotland and Scotland’s firefighters’.