During 2022/23, we carried out a Fire Cover Review as we do every four years in line with the development of our Fire Plan, to ensure we have the right resources in the right place at the right time with the right equipment and training.
Alongside this, we also carried out a Strategic Review of Special Appliances, to assess the effectiveness of our special appliances that carry dedicated equipment and technology for use in specific situations.
It is the recommendations from these two reviews that we asked our people, our communities and our partners for their views in summer 2023.
An internal and external engagement and consultation process took place, focusing on changes to our operational delivery.
The headlines from the Executive Summary include:
- The proposals to move to “day crewing” in Sale and Offerton fire stations are strongly opposed by local residents and their representatives. This opposition is driven largely by concerns and fears for safety, including for older and more vulnerable residents and in response to local risks and developments.
- The day crewing proposals are also opposed by many GMFRS staff and the Fire Brigades Union. Safety concerns shared with residents are also added to by questions over the deliverability of the proposed staffing model.
- There is support for the addition of two new fire engines (or appliances) for the city region to be located in Manchester – but this support turns to opposition when it comes at the cost of a move to day crewing in other areas. Many respondents spoke of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and feelings of unfairness of reducing cover in one part of Greater Manchester to increase cover in another.
- The Enhanced Rescue Unit proposal received mixed reviews from both the public and staff. While the broader range of incident response provided was often welcomed, there were questions about the cover levels provided, identified locations of the units and deliverability of the staffing model.
- There was significantly less feedback on the Special Appliance Review than on the other proposals. There was broad support for the proposals outlined, but with some limited localised opposition – predominantly from staff – from some areas where appliances are proposed to be moved elsewhere.
- Consulting on the Fire Cover Review proposals as a single combined package has complicated analysis of how people feel about each of the proposals individually. Where there is opposition to the Enhanced Rescue Station, additional fire engine and Special Appliance proposals, accompanying free text comments often (but not always) link this back to the individual’s opposition to the day crewing proposals.
- Overall there is recognition that GMFRS is facing a difficult challenge in achieving its aims within the resources available to it. A number of responses spoke of the proposals being driven by financial pressures, while enthusiasm for the two additional appliances was tempered by a belief that this was not ‘new’ cover but replacing resources previously removed. People called for GMFRS and the Mayor to seek additional funding to keep communities safe, rather than changing current service levels to deliver within what is currently affordable.
As a result of the consultation and engagement process, the decision was made at the end of September 2023 to:
- Introduce one additional wholetime fire engine at Manchester Central Community Fire Station – taking our total fleet from 50 to 51 pumps.
- Invest an additional £340k in Prevention and Protection activities – targeting more resources to keeping people safe from emergencies before they happen.
- Implement Enhanced Rescue Station proposals at Leigh and Ashton Community Fire Stations – strengthening our ability to respond to increasing numbers of complex emergencies.
- Implement all proposals from our Strategic Review of Special Appliances – Implementing new technologies and ensuring specialist technical equipment is best located for where it is most needed across the city-region.
- Crews will continue to be based on station 24/7 and day crewing arrangements will not be progressed at Sale and Offerton fire stations.