Fire News

GMFRS reveals proposals for a frontline-first emergency service that is fit for the future

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has unveiled proposals that put firefighters at the heart of the work that we do and lay the foundation for a stronger organisation, focused on keeping communities safe and delivering a sustainable, affordable, frontline-first emergency service.

Like all fire services, Greater Manchester is continuing to have make savings because of Government cuts and pressures on council tax. The package put forward rises to this challenge but without compromising frontline safety or response times.

Since 2010, central government has cut funding to GMFRS by more than £20m, 17.5% of its total budget. The grant accounts for 55% of funding for the fire service, as compared to 64% in 2010. The rest of the funding comes from precept. These proposals will ensure that the service is on the right financial footing to be able to continue to serve the people of Greater Manchester.

Firefighters sit at the heart of these proposals. They will be supported by an organisation which has a culture of trust, respect and accountability, with improved working conditions, modern facilities and better training and equipment.

Proposals include:

  • A refocus on frontline delivery
  • Integration with place-based teams in every locality, targeting resources and meeting needs of communities
  • Maximising fire cover across Greater Manchester within available resources
  • More devolved power to the frontline
  • Re-investing in local stations and improved facilities
  • Investment in fire engines and equipment
  • Improved training and development
  • Investment in supporting technology and systems

The ‘root and branch’ review of the service was announced last year following the publication of the Kerslake Report and also in response to concerns raised with the Mayor by firefighters.

As part of the process, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have visited every fire station and team to get the views of staff about the organisation. The proposals announced today respond to that feedback.

A key part of the work has been the Fire Cover Review, which has seen a range of options analysed to optimise fire cover in Greater Manchester.

This includes the following proposals:

  1. Mergers of 6 fire stations into three, establishing new state-of-the art fire stations with opportunities for collaboration with blue light partners and for facilities for the communities. Initial consideration is being given to mergers at Bolton, Manchester and Stockport - the detail will be examined during the consultation.
  2. Crewing levels of 4 firefighters on all engines, reflecting current practice in Greater Manchester and services across the country.
  3. Removal of 8 second fire engines from stations currently with two engines.
  4. Maintenance of our position as one of the fastest responding fire services nationally, our average response times will still be more than a minute better than the national average.
  5. A new delivery model for Prevention, Protection, Youth Engagement and Administration.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who is also Greater Manchester’s Fire Commissioner said: “Despite the continued austerity we are doing everything we can in Greater Manchester to maintain the level of service that our fire service provides. As a result of these changes GMFRS will still be able to boast some of the fastest response times in the country.

“We are not doing this by making unfair demands of our firefighters. The frontline remains our focus. I have asked the new fire chief to adopt a frontline first ethos throughout the organisation and make sure our firefighters have the right training, modern equipment and facilities.”

Deputy Mayor, Baroness Beverley Hughes said; “These proposals, by reverting to the core business of rescue, prevention and protection will enable our firefighters to make an even better contribution to the safety, security and wellbeing of people in communities across Greater Manchester.

“I am grateful for the spirit in which staff from right across the organisation have been willing to engage with us and tell us what they think. Their views are at the heart of these plans and whilst the transformation will be challenging it is essential to put GMFRS on a better and sustainable footing to deliver services.”

Chief Fire Officer, Jim Wallace said: “These proposals outline some of the most progressive changes in the history of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service but they are important ones to make sure we are a service fit for the future.

“This will put us in a position where we can continue to keep people safe, but also ensure that we are a sustainable, efficient service. There will be tough decisions to make going forward but all of this will be informed by staff feedback and with the use of a robust evidence base.

“We want to use place-based working to make a real difference in preventing fires and other emergencies but also to work with partners to allow them to focus on those who require specialist assistance.

“By working with our partners we can make sure we are doing the best we can to keep the people of Greater Manchester safe.”

No final decisions have yet been made on these proposals as we are consulting with staff and trade union representatives. We will also be launching a public consultation around the plans and details will be released in due course.

1. These proposals keep more firefighters in place for longer and at the end of the implementation period retain a total number of firefighters broadly in line with the previously agreed plan for 2019/20. There will be no redundancies of firefighters. At 1 April 2019 there will be 1246 firefighters in place compared to 1058 planned for in the previous plan.

2. The proposals will guarantee 47 fire engines day and night across GM compared to the 50 currently available on average.

3. The current average response time in Greater Manchester is 7 minutes 19 seconds – significantly better than the national average of 8 minutes 45 seconds. Our position as one of the fastest-responding fire services in the country will be maintained under these proposals, with an impact of around 10 seconds on average response times.

4. The new model of delivering prevention, protection and youth engagement will be an integral part of place-based delivery. Our Greater Manchester place based model brings staff from across public services together to work with our most vulnerable people and families. Firefighters will receive referrals for fire related risk and will be able to make referrals to the most appropriate agency where they have concerns about a person or property.

5. The proposals include a reduction of up to 113 support roles in prevention and protection, youth engagement and administration but our ambition is that, following consultation, there will be no compulsory redundancies and that we will work with any staff impacted to help them find new roles.

A number of immediate improvements have already been made to address common concerns, including:

  • Engaging with staff and adopting a frontline first focus
  • An accelerated recruitment drive to reduce the current number of frontline operational vacancies
  • New shift patterns to improve firefighter work/ life balance and new working patterns and annual leave policy for firefighters.
  • Investing in station facilities, making them fit for the needs of our firefighters

12/03/2019 09:46 AM