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Safety fears over non-firefighter managers in fire service

17 May 2018

THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) has expressed concerns over East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) appointing staff with no experience of firefighting to key operational positions.

The union has warned that the safety of firefighters and the public is being jeopardised by the practice. ESFRS has advertised two area manager roles that would see the post holders direct fire crews in an emergency where life is at risk. The service is actively pushing for people who have no operational experience in the fire service to apply. It comes after the service appointed Dawn Whittaker as its chief fire officer last year despite having no past experience of being an operational firefighter.

FBU secretary for the south east Richard Jones said: “Opening senior operational positions to people who have no firefighting experience is a dangerous and potentially lethal experiment. It is unacceptable that firefighters will be responding to emergency incidents while being directed by people who have far less experience fighting fires.

“It also restricts opportunities for firefighters in the service who want to go for promotion. In recent years we have seen more firefighters leaving the service, partly because of the government’s pay cap. Taking away opportunities for them to progress up the ranks is another way to destroy morale.”

The union has also raised concerns that ESFRS may give the successful applicants access to the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme. Allowing a person to join the scheme who was not defined as a firefighter when they first joined the service is in contravention of pension rules.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack added: “Firefighters are professionals who dedicate their working lives to keeping people safe. It is unthinkable for a fire service to seek to bypass them altogether for roles that are vital to ensuring the safety of fire crews and the public. To add insult to injury, the fire service want to add people into a pension scheme that is clearly not made for them. It is an outrageous way to run a fire service”.