LFEPA Cuts and the Safety of Londoners (Supplementary) [7]

Session date: 
December 2, 2015
Question By: 
Navin Shah
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Ron Dobson (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, London Fire Brigade)

Question

Navin Shah AM:  I have a couple of questions to the Commissioner.  Given the safety risks from the scale and nature of the changes and cuts that will be faced by the LFB over the next years, how can you meaningfully get the views of London’s firefighters and their representatives?

Answer

Answer for LFEPA Cuts and the Safety of Londoners (Supplementary) [7]

Answer for LFEPA Cuts and the Safety of Londoners (Supplementary) [7]

Answered By: 
Ron Dobson (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, London Fire Brigade)

Ron Dobson CBE QFSM (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, LFB):  We have just completed quite a significant staff engagement exercise.  We have been out and visited many workplaces and many Members of staff across all sections of our workforce, and so we have started that engagement process already.  We will continue with that engagement process.  We are just about to go into phase two of that after Christmas.  Part of that engagement process is to talk to staff about the future of the service, what they feel we should be delivering in the future, what new things or other things they think we could be doing, where we might improve their training and all of those sorts of things.  We are getting information back from them about that.

Also, we have a very extensive industrial relations process whereby we seek the views of the trade unions.  I have to say that, having carried out the staff engagement process recently, the information we had back from the staff engagement process is quite significantly different in many areas to the views we get from the staff representatives through the trade union process.  It is quite interesting to see in terms of balancing up those views what staff are saying to us as opposed to what their union representatives are saying to us.  Our task is to try to join those things together and seek agreement, obviously.  We always seek to consult properly with the FBU.  We listen to their views and we seek to amend proposals in a way in which we can seek agreement in the future.

The staff consultation process, as I said, is very significant.  We carried out the first phase of that recently and phase two will start in the New Year.  It is a process that is intended to be continuous into the future, particularly as we go into a London Safety Plan year next year.

Navin Shah AM:  You have just heard concerns about Ealing risking its fire engine.  Similarly, I have been talking to firefighters in Willesden, again, at the fire station and there is the potential risk of losing a fire engine there, too.  There is very strong opposition to any such loss given the borough profile in terms of risk of fire as well as the attendance times, which are there on record.

What weight will you give when you get these responses from firefighters and other stakeholders?  What is your plan?

Ron Dobson CBE QFSM (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, LFB):  I am aware of the views of firefighters, particularly at the stations where the fire engines have been absent for the last two years.  I have to say that many of the views that I get from firefighters also is that they accept that these fire engines have been missing for two years and they accept that the risk of London has continued to reduce over that time.  Therefore, whilst they would not accept or would not propose that the fire engines do not go back, they accept the reason for it.  That is not the case for every firefighter, obviously, but my answer to them is that these fire engines, particularly these 13, have been out of service for two years already.  The evidence we have of the performance of the LFB in terms of attendance times, numbers of fires and numbers of fire deaths has continued to improve and, therefore, there is not a case for putting them back in the face of the significant savings that we need to make.

Navin Shah AM:  Commissioner, the evidence that you say does not stack up when you actually look at a ward-by-ward analysis of response times, which have gone up.

If I can move on to the whole aspect of engaging, consulting and listening to the responses, I am pleased that via Sir Edward Lister [Chief of Staff to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, Policy and Planning] the Mayor has asked that the consultation on the cuts should be carried out in a neutral and fair manner, which is very welcome.  Therefore, there again there is public engagement, which is critical.

How are you going to take into account public opinion?  I am afraid the record is not very good.  Last time with LSP5, when 96% of the responses from the public did not want station closures: you did not listen to them, did you?  What are you going to do in terms of dealing with public opinion?  I am sure it will come out against what you are trying to do with the cuts because of safety risks.

Ron Dobson CBE QFSM (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, LFB):  The consultation itself will be as the Mayor has directed in terms of being fair and balanced.  I am sure that LFEPA Members will be, through the process that we have this afternoon and maybe in the subsequent days, making sure that the balance is to the LFEPA MembersMembers’ satisfaction.  I am sure that that will be the case and so I am very confident that the consultation process will be fair, equitable and as open and transparent as it can possibly be.

In terms of using those results, the results of the consultation - as they were previously - will be reported back to LFEPA exactly as they have been received.  In terms of whether that public consultation affects the outcome or how it affects it is perhaps not a question for me.  It may be more for MembersMembers of LFEPA and for the Mayor.