A fire service is so cash-strapped it’s now running people to hospital to make money

A fire service has taken on social care contracts
Support us and go ad-free

A fire service struggling with its budget has taken on social care contracts to try and make money. But the move has provoked anger among trade unions. Because it means than fire fighters and engines could be taken off the frontline.

Austerity bites

As The Birmingham Mail reported, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) has signed three council contracts in a bid to claw back some of the £38m in budget cuts it will have had to make by 2020. The deals are for emergency calls to elderly people in their homes, with one also being for “hospital patient transportation”. They are reported to be worth £2m to WMFS, which claims it is also doing it to meet “community risk where appropriate”.

Currently, the contracts are staffed by a mixture of HR staff, cleaners and some fire fighters who have volunteered for the scheme. But “incredibly”, as The Birmingham Mail puts it, the HR staff and cleaners will be getting the same rate of pay as fully trained fire fighters on the contracts. And WMFS is reportedly bringing in changes to all fire fighters’ contracts, to include a flexible working clause. This would force them to work on the care contracts when asked.

Warring sides

But the West Midlands branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has hit back at WMFS’s plans. It says the deals are “unacceptable”, and that they will mean:

Firefighters being diverted to non-emergency work, leading to the number of emergency vehicles available being reduced. Firefighters in the emergency control room will be tied up on non-emergency calls, putting 999 callers at risk, people who need us in a life or death situation.

WMFS disagrees. It says that the deals are part of the “service’s strategic aim to reduce risk in the community by engaging with those most vulnerable from fire”. It also claims that response times to emergency fire-related calls will be unaffected.

The fire service: stretched to the limit?

West Midlands FBU has launched a petition, which at the time of publication had over 8,000 signatures. It says:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Firefighters firmly believe that West Midlands Fire Service are currently running these non-emergency services at a massive financial loss to fulfil contracts. Tax payers contribute on the understanding that their hard-earned money goes to provide the excellent response and prevention work that firefighters deliver. They do not expect their money to be redirected to take on and prop up outside contracts in areas of business that the service has no experience in. This course of direction poses a very real risk of back door privatisation of your fire service.

And on Monday 29 January, it is running a social media campaign. It wants people to take a selfie holding a piece of paper saying “I support West Midlands Firefighters! #FiredUp”. And then people can tweet their pictures using the hashtag to @WestMidlandsFBU.

As West Midlands FBU concluded, it wants to see:

The Fire Authority… end the issuing of flexible contracts to firefighters and to have all emergency frontline vehicles available for emergencies and not tied up at non-emergency work.

And so far, judging by the petition, many thousands of people agree.

Get Involved!

Sign the West Midlands FBU petition.

Featured image via 28704869/Flickr and Rawpixel/Pixabay

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed