Response to the
Fire (Scotland) Bill
The UNISON Scotland Submission
the Scottish Parliament's Justice 2 Committee
On their call for Written
Evidence on the Fire (Scotland) Bill
Bill is the continuation of the Scottish Executive's plans to ‘modernise' the
Fire Service and sees many of the issues in earlier consultations being put into
legislation. Therefore it may be useful to look at UNISON Scotland's responses
to these earlier consultations. These can be found at:
UNISON Scotland Submission To the Scottish Executive
On - "The Scottish Fire
and Rescue Service: Proposals for Legislation" :December 2003.
Scotland's response to Scottish Executive Consultation on The Scottish Fire Service
of the Future :July 2002
looking at the main objectives of the Bill it may be worthwhile examining the
motive for this legislation.
The Scottish Executive highlights
that one of the main motives for this Bill is to update current legislation relating
to the Fire Service which dates back to the Fire Services Act of 1947 (the 1947
Act). Although the Fire Service has evolved and developed since then the Scottish
Executive believes it is now time to introduce new primary legislation covering
the role and functions of the Fire Service. However the Policy Memorandum states
that the 1947 Act could be amended by secondary legislation and the use of guidelines
yet the Scottish Executive still want to produce a new Bill which basically re-enacts
a lot of the powers within the 1947 Act.
The Policy Memorandum
also seems to indicate that a driving motive for new legislation comes from a
similar move in England and Wales to replace the 1947 Act and a concern that updating
the existing legislation would ‘do little to progress the modernisation agenda'.
There is a concern here that the Scottish Executive is merely following the decisions
taken by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and is not reviewing what
is necessary for the Fire Service in Scotland.
Executive also lists a number of problems which may arise without a reform of
existing legislation. Amongst these is the concern that without reform certain
operational matters would continue to be referred to Scottish Ministers rather
than decisions being taken at a local level with the benefit of local knowledge
and expertise. However this contradicts another of the Executive's consultations
on the Fire Service namely their proposals to reduce the number of fire service
control rooms and effectively lose the benefit of local knowledge and expertise.
the Role of the modern Fire and Rescue Service
Scotland has concerns with the section in the Bill which extends the existing
powers in the 1947 Act for Fire and Rescue authorities to enter into contracts
with others to provide services in the execution of their functions - i.e. contract
out some services. Although fire-fighting duties can only be carried out by other
fire and rescue authorities (or other private companies who employ fire-fighters),
this is not the case with other services. For instance, an example would be an
agreement where a relevant authority contracts with a local authority to promote
fire safety within its schools.
UNISON Scotland is concerned
about the potential for current duties to be outsourced to external agencies and
the impact this will have on fire service staff.
and Local Priorities and Objectives
Ministers need to consult on the drafting on the National Framework, and any subsequent
revisions, there is too little detail of what service issues will be included
to provide an adequate response at this stage. There is a need for further clarification
on the issues and targets that will be included in the national framework document.
Scotland has concerns over third party access to operational equipment during
industrial action. This could result in untrained personnel accessing specialist
equipment and could result in damage or extra maintenance requirements before
the equipment could be fully utilised.
The Bill does not
specifically provide details on local priorities and objectives and is only concerned
that fire and rescue authorities ensure that service provision falls within the
the Protection offered to local communities
Memorandum of the Bill indicates the abolition of section 19 (of the 1947: the
Ministerial role in the decision making process affecting issues such as the closure
of fire stations) will improve local decision-making. There is very little in
the Bill which specifically addresses improved protection to local communities.
However in devolving such powers to local fire boards (and
their respective local authorities) UNISON Scotland is concerned that the local
structures that oversee fire station closures will be unaccountable and that communities
will not be able to lobby the Scottish Executive. This could lead to similar problems
as has been experienced with Health Boards, whose decisions have angered many
communities but who have nowhere to turn to regarding issues such as hospital
closures. UNISON Scotland would not support any development which lessened public
scrutiny and accountability in the provision of public services.
Bill does not provide much detail on issues relating to the protection of local
communities as mentioned in earlier consultations. For instance the plans to replace
existing Standards of Fire Cover with Integrated Risk Management Plans are simply
As UNISON Scotland stated in an earlier
consultation response, we are concerned about the use of Integrated Risk Management
(IRM) and the possibility that this might result in a reduction in fire cover.
There is a concern that IRM has not been piloted in any area and as such there
is no evidence that it can provide an improvement over current standards. UNISON
Scotland is also concerned that a shift to IRM will take place before there are
any pilots or evidence to suggest it will provide superior standards of fire cover.
Bill abolishes the Scottish Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council and allows
Scottish Ministers to consult any such persons as they consider appropriate. UNISON
Scotland is concerned that such consultation may be inadequate without a statutory
duty to consult professional fire service bodies, including trade unions, in the
operation of the Fire and Rescue service in Scotland.
are a number of employment related concerns within this Bill. These include the
arbitrary power of Scottish Ministers to establish a negotiating machinery and
the composition of such a body for the fire and rescue service in Scotland. UNISON
Scotland has concerns that statutory body can decide which conditions of service
should be negotiated locally rather than nationally.
Scotland is in favour of equal opportunities and diversity within the workplace
but would like to see more detail on how the Executive propose to achieve this.
UNISON Scotland would also like to see the Executive address the issue of equal
pay within the fire service. In general UNISON Scotland regards such human resource
issues as primarily the concern of fire authorities, their employees and the relevant
There is also some concern that provisions
within the Bill remove the obligation for the certification of premises and staffing
resources which would have been required for this would be available for deployment
elsewhere. UNISON Scotland would like further clarification on this issue and
the involvement of trade unions in any discussion on the re-deployment of any
Financial Memorandum of this Bill appears to be contradictory in that is states
the Bill largely builds on the existing arrangements under which the fire service
is structured and that the arrangements under which the funding is provided will
essentially remain unchanged. However the same paragraph then goes on to explain
that dependant on whether Scottish Ministers exercise their new powers this may
give rise to additional costs. It also highlights that other issues such as the
attempt to maximise efficiencies and developing collaboration as well as changes
in the fire safety regime, will all have financial implications.
Financial Memorandum goes on to raise the issue of fire service control rooms,
where it states that there are a range of costs and benefits, quantifiable and
non-quantifiable, relating to maintaining or reducing the number of control rooms.
The report than produces estimates of the possible savings, presumably including
the non-quantifiable costs and benefits!
would more clarification on the costs of implementing this Bill, especially in
relation to the additional statutory duties to be undertaken and on the staffing
and resource implications of the Bill.
For Further Information Please Contact:
Smith, Scottish Secretary
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835
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