The Fire Brigades Union has said that an inspection of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service confirms that the fire and rescue service in Buckinghamshire is struggling to provide basic functions.
The report, released yesterday, comes from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, which has statutory responsibility for the inspection of fire and rescue services and police forces across the country. The report found that Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service ‘requires improvement’ in various areas, including in terms of ‘effectively and efficiently keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks’ and the ‘extent to which the service looks after its people’.
Mark Chapman, Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said that:
“We have a situation here where Buckinghamshire fire and rescue service requires improvement when it comes to keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks, just as this reports states. Everybody wants a fast and full response from the fire and rescue service when they need it – it’s what they pay their taxes for. Yet this suggests that this is in doubt in Buckinghamshire.
“We do not need to look far for the culprit here. Steep cuts over the last decade have left Buckinghamshire fire and rescue severely under-resourced. For example, Buckinghamshire has lost 43% of its firefighters since 2010, and we now have just 0.44 firefighters per 1,000 population in the area.
“We and others had significant concerns about fire and rescue cover in Buckinghamshire even prior to this report – when fire and rescue is discussed with people overwhelmingly they tell us that they believe it has seen significant and damaging downgrades over the last decade or so.
“The concerns raised by the inspectorate regarding the ‘lean’ operational response model operated in Buckinghamshire and its ability to respond when needed should be ringing alarm bells, and action must be taken to address this. We have seen responses to recent fires in Buckinghamshire and namely a hotel fire in Stokenchurch that relied heavily on resources from neighbouring fire and rescue services, draining other counties of their fire cover. This cannot be allowed to continue.
“The report accurately states the impact this deficient crewing model is having on its staff. The fact that the inspectorate is using words such as ‘staff are having to work hard to do what they can with the resources available’ and ‘some teams are overstretched’ should be of grave concern.
The report also, worryingly, concludes that equality, diversity and inclusion is not a priority for Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service. This shows there are questions that need asking about the management and Chief Fire Officer’s future role in a modern fire and rescue service”.