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February 26, 2004

Gobble me no gook please!

Searching through new legislation is a deadly activity. Apart from the fact that it is boring, it can also be a cause for raised blood pressure as one realises that the parasitic poodles of Westminster are yet again whittling away at one's freedoms - in the interests, of course, of guarding them! Usually this entails writing screeds of if this, then that, and but if the other. Liberally laced with "caveats" and opportunities for lawyers to earn mega-bucks arguing about the meaning of words in endless court cases while they decide what, if anything, a particular line or clause meant.

This present government is possibly the worst for this sort of meddling. Bear in mind that they are almost all lawyers, accountants or trade unionists in the cabinet and you see what I mean. They want to control every aspect of every activity they can possibly get away with. On top of this their grasp of reality is tenuous to say the least. And it is all driven by ideology rather than by any need to actually fix anything. That it is all hidden behind the argument that "it is driven by EU harmonisation" is not only disingenuous but a blatant piece of misinformation. Add to all of the foregoing a burning desire to tear down any hint of professional pride and to label success as elitist or even better as institutionalised something-ism and you have a recipe for the destruction of anything that functions efficiently and delivers the goods. Just look at the Health (dis) Service since we got all the "managers" in to replace the Doctors and Senior Nursing Specialists who used to run it reasonably efficiently.

The result of the politicians expressed desire to "modernise" services is that one of the worlds best equipped, trained and led fire and rescue services is being dismantled in the name of "modernisation". The professionalism built so painfully since 1948 is being thrown away and we are being prepared for the imposition of "managers" at all levels above fire fighters. The specialist officers, who, like myself, have worked in a variety of roles on the way to where we have ended as specialists, accumulating a vast array of experience and knowledge, are to be replaced by direct entry graduates. On paper this sounds fine, but a text book is no substitute for the realities of what can and will go wrong in the real world if some small element is disregarded because the person reviewing it has no experience of fire or, fire related emergency, to back up his or her knowledge. But, that is the way we are being driven, and it is to the great discredit of the current Chief Fire Officers and their management teams, that they are colluding in doing it.

I am currently studying the draft Fire and Rescue Services Bill, to be made law later this year, and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order to become law in early 2005. Both have very large deficiencies within them, but our lords and masters - the smart aleck "yes" men of the Civil Service and the politicians in Whitehall - don't want to know. The writing on the wall is obvious. All they are interested in is cutting the amount of money spent on fire brigades and ensuring that the "diversity" targets are met by the easiest route they can find.

Gone are the Discipline Regulations, gone the joint councils for pay and grading, gone the rank structures, gone the centralised training, gone the clear career path, gone the traditions of the service, gone even the selection criteria - provided you are in one of the "under represented groups" of course! - and even the uniform is being reduced to that equivalent to what dustmen and street sweepers wear. All to destroy what is seen as "elitist" or "militarist" symbols and attitudes. Give it five or so years and watch the fire losses and deaths start to soar as the service loses expertise and efficiency.

The new legislation is supposed to be clear and concise. It's concise, but it's not that clear. To be precise, it leaves a number of very important questions hanging and very obviously is designed to allow for further radical change as this gathers momentum. Ask yourself this question, if over the last 30 years the annual figures for deaths in fire have been declining in those buildings were the Fire Authorities have been responsible for enforcement, is this a sign of failure? This is what we are being told - that we have failed because we are targeting the wrong premises. So we replace a successful but rather restrictive regime with a new one that is going to be very difficult to police effectively and which will inevitably have problems because the service will now simply police what the employer deems is necessary, which (see my remarks above about experience!) will be difficult to achieve as they have no yardstick to measure against.

The new Bill, which one would have thought should be the vehicle for the powers of inspectors and this all important function, mentions fire safety only in terms of public education. No powers are made to enable an authority to use this legislation for fire safety inspection - oh no! Those are in a regulation, which, if you have any knowledge of the difference between Regulations and Acts, will tell you how the politicians wish to see this go. Again, watch this space, it will not be long before we hear that the fire authorities do not have the necessary resources or expertise and it should be done by Environmental Health, Trading Standards or the HSE. After all, fire fighters are for fighting fire - they have neither the qualifications nor the knowledge to deal with these complex issues.

I look forward to the Coroner's Courts and the Tribunals of Inquiry. I think I will make a fortune appearing for the victims and their families. In the meantime, investigate the installation of fire protection sprinklers and other systems in your property - there won't be a fire service capable of dealing with it or responding in time if you have a fire in a few years time.

What a pity the Whitehall Whallahs and Petty Politicians cannot be open and honest - but, I rather think the public might just be a tad upset about it if they were!

Posted by The Gray Monk at February 26, 2004 04:46 PM


Great bunch of stories - keep hammering away!.

Posted by: Tim at February 27, 2004 05:17 PM

Thanks - nil carborundum?

Posted by: The Gray Monk at February 27, 2004 06:59 PM