Fire chiefs to get tough with government officials – Press & Journal 27th Sept 2011

September 27, 2011

Grampian FRS, Local News

Fire chiefs to get tough with government officials

GRAMPIAN BOARD CONVENOR VOWS TO ASK ‘SEARCHING’ QUESTIONS AT MEETING OVER REFORM OF SERVICE

Scottish Government staff overseeing a planned switch to a national service will face “tough, searching questions” at a meeting with north-east brigade chiefs this week.

Members of Grampian Joint Fire and Rescue Board will have the opportunity to grill senior officials at Elgin on Friday.

The SNP administration is pushing ahead with plans to break up the existing eight brigades and move to a singl, national body, Christie Smith, the government’s head of police and fire service reform, will travel north to present details of the controversial proposals.

Grampian board convenor, Mike Raeburn said: “I think he has some trepidation about coming.

When he went to Lothian and Borders, he was given a very rough time inded.

“I am a little less aggressive, but we will be asking tough, searching questions.

The single service is deliverable – the trick is making it deliverable without placing the public at risk, and it costing a fortune.”

Mr Raeburn predicted difficulties in dealing with “dozens” of local agreements which are in place between unions and respective fire boards across the country.

The Scottish Government argues that a service with one chief fire officer and a single board overseeing operations would “reduce complexity” and improve “outdated and inefficient structures”. The new board, which would be responsible for managing the annual budget, would have the power to appoint or dismiss the chief fire officer.

There would also be a senior officer in each local authority area, who would work closely with elected members.

The Scottish Fire Service College, which provides the majority of initial firefighter training, would be moved to the control of the new service. By eliminating localised training, the government hopes to save money from the annual college budget of around £6.4million.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said:

“This is part of the engagement with local fire officers and fire boards in the wake of the announcement, and the ongoing consultation on fire service reform.

Mr Smith has met with Lothian and Borders fire officers, and will be doing the same thing with Grampian and all the other boards around the country.”

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