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Firefighter Training

Volume 645: debated on Monday 16 July 2018

6. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of changes to fire services’ staffing levels on the capacity of those services to deliver firefighter training. (906455)

It is extremely important that every firefighter receives the right level of training for the very demanding work that they do. The new national framework makes a requirement for every single fire service to have a strategy, as all 45 do, and now independent inspection will help us to get a better view of what good looks like and where training is not good enough.

Across Greater Manchester in the past year we have seen a 31% increase in the number of special service calls to our fire service, including many calls to reports of cardiac arrests. This is placing an enormous strain on our talented and dedicated firefighters. What will the Government be doing to resource fire services to provide the support and training needed to cope with this additional pressure?

With respect to the hon. Lady, I do not think it is an issue of resources, because fire budgets have been held flat in cash terms despite a backdrop of a 50% fall in fires over the past decade. The fire system has found the flexibility in its budgets to move over a quarter of a billion pounds-worth of taxpayers’ money into research. However, it is absolutely important in this next phase that we have a better understanding of how consistent good training is across the system.

Firefighter staffing in Northamptonshire will soon be the responsibility of the new combined police and fire commissioner. Will the Minister work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that Northamptonshire County Council, which currently governs the fire service, hands over to the commissioner the correct financial resources to get the new organisation off to a good start?

The short answer is yes. My hon. Friend and I both understand the historical context to this and some of the difficulties and complexities. I am sure that the council will want to co-operate fully with the new arrangements.

Firefighter Michael Dowden told the Grenfell inquiry that he had not received any familiarisation training before his inspection of Grenfell Tower in 2016. With cuts to 11,000 fire service jobs, station closures and privatisation of training delivery, our overstretched fire services—despite the Minister’s usual comments about resources—are struggling to complete the training they need. With all this in mind, what specific measures is he taking to ensure that fire services have the capacity to deliver the training that our firefighters need to keep both themselves and our communities safe?

It is the responsibility of each fire chief to ensure that their local teams are properly trained. They have the resources to do that, as I made clear in my earlier answer.