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EDITIONS
 Saturday, 21 December, 2002, 20:16 GMT
Fire union welcomes new report
Firefighter in Edinburgh
Report suggests more fire crews are needed for safety
Research which appears to show the fire service needs more firefighters not less has been welcomed by the Fire Brigades Union.

The fire service emergency cover review, known as the "pathfinder" trials, involved 11 fire brigades over three years, and looked at how fire cover was provided, particularly the risk to life and property.

The results of it have been interpreted completely differently by the two sides embroiled in the firefighters' pay dispute.

The FBU is planning two 48-hour strikes on 28 January and 1 February, unless talks with conciliation service Acas are successful.

The FBU claimed the repot showed more firefighters and resources were needed, which "clearly flies in the face of the Bain review".

This is a report by experts, who know what they are talking about

FBU

The report by Sir George Bain recommended a pay increase for firefighters to be funded by the modernisation of the service, widely interpreted as job cuts.

The government said the "pathfinder" report still supported its belief that the cost of the service could be reduced.

The pathfinder research found there were some situations in which an "intolerable risk" to lives meant more fire crews were needed.

'More resources'

An FBU spokesman said: "This report has clearly found that more firefighters and more resources are needed, although people may argue about the number.

"This is a report by experts, who know what they are talking about.

"The key to the report is the speed of the response to the fire and the number of engines you send, to reduce the risk to life."

But Fire Service Minister Nick Raynsford said the pathfinder document presented two scenarios, the second suggesting spending could be cut by almost half with very little increase in risk.

We continue to believe that matching fire cover to risk is the best way forward, offering considerable efficiencies over current practice

Government
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said further analysis it had carried out showed that using a different set of planning assumptions the cost of the fire service could be halved without making much difference to current levels of loss of life and property.

"We continue to believe that matching fire cover to risk is the best way forward, offering considerable efficiencies over current practice," a spokesman said.

He added the pathfinder report would be sent to the fire risk management advisory board of the CFBAC (Central Fire Brigades Advisory Councils) and it would decide how to implement its findings.

The Bain review recommended a two-year pay rise of 11%, tied to sweeping changes in working practices.

A White Paper setting out legislative and other changes needed to reform the fire service is to be published next spring.


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26 Nov 02 | Politics
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