Emergency fire controls mergers or outsourcing a ‘no go!’

George McIrvine
George McIrvine

#stuc2017 The STUC will oppose any attempts by the Scottish Government to outsource emergency fire control rooms or to merge them with other emergency services.

Seconding the FBU motion, UNISON’s George McIrvine told delegates that UNISON Scotland is surprised that even the thought of ‘closer working’ between each of the police, fire and ambulance emergency services would be on anyone’s radar at this point in time.

“Any suspicion of a potential merger of these services is an absolute ‘no go’ area from the outset,” said George.

“We witnessed in April 2013 a merger of 8 police forces and the Scottish police services authority which came to being from an empty manifesto promise from this ‘centralisation crazy’ Scottish government.

“Like the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services, the centralisation of Police control rooms since 2013 has led to closures in Dumfries, Glenrothes, Stirling and most recently Aberdeen with Inverness currently in the ‘firing line’.”

He added that this centralisation has resulted in much negative media attention as it delivers a poorer service for local communities, whilst adding untold pressures on the existing staff due to a combination of a lack of local knowledge and severe staff shortages.

He cited one example of this when police resources were dispatched to a call about a suspected commercial housebreaking at Tesco Express, Great Western Road in Glasgow instead of where the crime took place up in Aberdeen.

“This serves as a timely reminder of the risks of centralising public services at the cost of local knowledge which impinges on the workers who are trying to do their best,” warned George.

George added that although the Scottish Government claims that centralisation of services is modern and cost effective, and will lead to £1.1 billion of efficiency savings by 2026, in fact, the Scottish Police Control Room and Call Handling mergers pushed the division well over budget to the tune of at least £12.5m over the last 4 years, “by papering over the cracks of throwing overtime at staff and bringing in operational police officers at added expense.”

“That’s not ‘best value’ to the public purse and is certainly not best use of service delivery to the public,” said George

“UNISON wholeheartedly agrees that any move whatsoever to outsource control room services should be opposed and recognises that the specialisms of ambulance, fire and police staff should be maintained, as each and every incident received requires that particular skill set.

“Until Policing in Scotland get their own house in order, how can you ever even debate the issue of merging three separate specialisms such as police, fire and ambulance.”

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