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Fire Services: Workforce

Volume 642: debated on Monday 4 June 2018

The statutory fire and rescue national framework includes principles that all services should follow to ensure that firefighters remain fit and fully supported to remain on operational duties and in employment.

Fire and rescue services attended 574,659 incidents in the year to June 2017, an increase on the previous year. Has the Minister made any effort to ensure that the falling number of firefighters and fire stations are not overstretched?

Yes, because we believe the fire system has the resources it needs to do the job against a backdrop of falling demand for statutory fire services. Of course, the system is sitting on over £600 million of reserves, which have grown by over £0.25 billion since 2011.

The ageing work profile among our firefighters is partially a result of changes to the firefighters’ pension scheme. What assessment has the Minister made of the number of redeployment opportunities for firefighters who are compelled to work to the age of 60?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. The average age of our firefighters is 42, and we have more than 1,000 firefighters who are over 56, which makes it extremely important that fire authorities do not just assess fitness but help firefighters to maintain and develop their fitness and give firefighters all the necessary support and protection when there is a problem so they can continue in their operational duties. That is set out in the statutory fire and rescue national framework, and it will be the subject of independent inspection when independent inspection starts this year.

With ingenuity, the hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) will detect that his question is not unadjacent, and if he wishes to put it now, he can.

21. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. May I ask my right hon. Friend what work his Department can do to support the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, as he seeks greater collaboration between the police and fire services in the west midlands? (905662)

I assure my hon. Friend that I speak regularly to Andy Street. The Government are determined to honour the second devolution deal, including with proposals to help to bring police and fire services under the Mayor, as we have done in London and Manchester. I assure my hon. Friend that we are absolutely committed to working with both Andy Street and the police and crime commissioner to make sure that that happens by 2020.

As a result of this Government’s cut to funding, along with no recruitment drive, we have seen both a reduction in the number of firefighters and an increasingly ageing workforce. How do the Government plan to address the rising age of firefighters? Will the Minister please give us some specific examples?

I already have. Through the statutory national framework, every fire authority is required not just to assess firefighter fitness, but to help to develop and maintain it, giving assurances about support if problems arise, so that every firefighter, whatever their age, is given the maximum possible opportunity to continue to support their service and remain on operational duties. That is set out in the statutory framework.