December 16, 2021 4.47 pm

Fire chief denies county’s service has funding gap as union calls for extra cash

“When you dial 999, you will get a very high-performing first-class service”

Lincolnshire’s Chief Fire Officer said the county does “not have a funding gap and we haven’t got a resources gap” in response to union concerns over the latest round of inspections, which found the service lacking.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) latest report into Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue found the force requires improvement in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and people.

The report, along with 11 others nationally, has been picked up by the Fire Brigade Union, who say fire and rescue services across the country are struggling to provide basic functions.

Andy Dark, assistant general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, has criticised the fact multiple services “require improvement”.

He said that since 2010 services have “seen their budgets slashed” – between 2013 and 2020 alone they saw real-terms spending cut by 38%, he said, and since 2010 there has been a cut of one in every five firefighter jobs.

The report on Lincs F&R said: “The service is not doing enough to make sure it has the resources to meet demand and protect the community”.

“The service sets response standards for arrival at fires and road traffic collisions. But it doesn’t currently meet these targets,” it said.

It also said: “The service needs to make sure that its workforce has the skills and capabilities needed to carry out its work.

“Its workforce and training plans must make sure that staff have the necessary skills to carry out the service’s IRMP. This will ensure that the service can maintain a competent and effective workforce.”

Mr Dark has called on the government to start reinvesting and making up the shortfall in funding.

However, Mark Baxter, Chief Fire Officer for Lincolnshire, said this was not the case.

He said that since the inspection was carried several months ago a number of improvements had already been made.

The HMICFRS report says that the Lincs Fire and Rescue has seen a 19% decrease in whole-time firefighters in the past five years, however, Mark said that the county had a “blended mix” of whole and part-time staff, which allowed it adapt its response across the county.

He said the rural nature of the county required a different setup to many urban forces, adding that since 2010 the force had “actually increased our whole time establishment” including two additional fire stations being brought online and 30 extra on-call staff.

“I emphasise in context, in regards to funding and resources, we haven’t got a funding gap, and we haven’t got a resourcing gap.

“Some of the recommendations within the report are probably that we need to be a bit more effective on how we use our resources, and how we use our people to to meet the demands, particularly in regards to our prevention and protection.

“But in how we operate and respond, we are very effective.”

The inspection found Lincolnshire’s fire service needed to improve in two main areas – how it carries out inspections of premises in the county and how it can improve equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the service.

Other areas that were inspected were found to be good, included the response of the service to emergencies and promoting the right values and culture in the service.

Mr Baxter said he accepted the findings, and said it was an “opportunity to move forward with our continuous improvement agenda”.

“We’re already done an awful lot of work to address the areas they recommend we improve.

He said measures to improve the force included extra staff and specialist training.

He assured residents: “When you dial 999, you will get a very high-performing first-class service that will respond to incidents and emergencies.”

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