FIRE and rescue services are being “crippled” by government cuts to the number of control room staff, according to a new report out yesterday.
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) report Losing Control details how Tory austerity has seen a quarter of fire control operators and local control rooms axed in the past six years.
The loss of 500 posts has led to “chronic shortages,” meaning staff have to work overtime to ensure shifts are covered, the union warns.
Many fire services are introducing 12-hour shifts which the union says has a disproportionate impact on women, who make up the majority of control room staff.
And the report claims that new “state of the art” mobilising systems are failing, leading to a deterioration in response times.
One FBU control worker said: “Management promised the new mobilising system would cut down on work by around 20 per cent, one of the reasons for the job losses, but all I’ve seen so far is the amount of work and stresses on staff increase tenfold.”
The union warned that budget cuts are so severe that a number of fire authorities are considering outsourcing control room and staff to the private sector.
They say that recent “outsourcing experiments” show that “no part of the service, not even the front line, is immune from the threat of being sold off to profit-seeking private companies.”
FBU control staff national committee secretary Lynda Rowan O’Neill said: “Control staff have been subjected to more than a decade of failed government policy, characterised by cuts, mergers and under-investment.”