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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Forced modernisation for fire service
Local authorities have been told to start introducing plans to modernise the fire service even though the long-running pay dispute has not yet been settled.

Firefighters outside November's CBI conference
Firefighters have staged a series of strikes
Officials from the Local Government Association (LGA) have contacted employers to advise them to start implementing the modernisation agenda on all issues that do not directly affect the terms and conditions of firefighters.

Leaders of the Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) are likely to be angered by the move which could result in joint control rooms being set up and more collaboration with other emergency services.

The LGA has become increasingly impatient at the lack of progress towards settling the fire dispute and is concerned the FBU is not prepared to talk seriously about reforms.

Last month firefighters voted to reject a 16% pay rise offer linked to a modernisation package which would have ended their long-running dispute.

The rejection came in spite of a recommendation by union leaders to accept the offer.

In February a controversial review of the fire service recommended an 11% rise in firefighters' pay over two years coupled with radical modernisation of their working practices.

The inquiry, chaired by Sir George Bain, said there was the opportunity to greatly improve the UK's fire service and save brigades millions of pounds.

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