Scottish Government must invest in whole Scottish Fire and Rescue team

John Stevenson
John Stevenson

#stuc2017 The STUC will lobby the Scottish Government for proper funding for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to provide a high quality service, as promised by the Scottish Government when the single Fire and Rescue Service was introduced.

The FBU motion was amended by UNISON to make it clear that ALL those who deliver the fire and rescue service – and indeed all other public services – are an essential part of the public service team.

Seconding the motion, UNISON’s John Stevenson said that UNISON had been concerned from the outset about the centralising agenda – the sucking up of powers by the Scottish Parliament instead of the ‘subsidiarity’ of putting control of services as close to the people as possible.

“And we predicted the problems that would come from a centralised police force,” said John.

UNISON had warned that we’d end up paying millions in VAT instead of on services. Even if there had to be centralised services, UNISON pointed out how the VAT trap could be avoided – but government control was clearly more important than a solution involving local authorities.

“And of course if not enough funding is the problem in the first place, which it was for fire and rescue and for police, and is for social care, no amount of mergers or centralisation will solve that alone – and they haven’t and they won’t,” said John.

“And so here we are now with huge VAT bills, huge cuts in the fire and rescue service, and police staff gone in their thousands while their jobs are backfilled by bobbies OFF the beat.

“Our amendment is here to dispel the artificial difference between cuts in ‘Backroom’ and ‘Frontline’. Cuts in admin staff, staff in specialist services, in functions like control rooms, all affect the frontline service,” warned John.

“Admin tasks get piled on to workers who are trained in firefighting, policing, nursing or social work – not in admin. It is inefficient – the job is not what these workers are trained to do.

“These staff are not the ‘backroom’ they are the ‘engine room’ that keeps the service on track.”

John reminded delegates that in January, Highland Council complained to the First Minister about problems after the Inverness control room closed – and an ex fire service manager reported “astounding” mistakes due to a lack of local knowledge.

“These are not the errors of workers,” slammed John. “They are errors caused by the system and by cuts and frankly by a lack of understanding and respect for the role of ALL of the members of the public service team.

“So UNISON Scotland fully backs the Fire Brigades Union’s call for the government to live up to its promises to properly fund the fire and rescue service and to stop peddling the myth that frontline services are being protected.”

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