£10 million to help Brigades promote equality in the fire service was announced yesterday by Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien at the Fire 2000 Conference in Manchester.
The Government has announced a 67% increase in capital funding for the service. The Minister gave a commitment that £10 million of the £59.7 million credit approvals for next year announced as part of Spending Review 2000, would be allocated to encouraging equality and diversity in brigades.
This will enable brigades to provide facilities for female firefighters and ethnic minorities, both of whom are currently under-represented in the fire service.
Some Fire Stations still lack basic facilities for female fire fighters such as separate changing rooms and toilets. The Government has set targets for recruitment retention and advancement of women and fire fighters from ethnic minorities and has now backed that up with funding to enable fire brigades to deliver on the targets. The brigades will also be encouraged to identify other innovative projects to promote equal opportunity.
Addressing the Fire 2000 Conference yesterday, Mr O'Brien set out the Home Office vision for the fire service and highlighted three key priorities for the future:
- Equal opportunities and fairness are crucial to achieving the future vision of a workforce that reflects the community;
- Fire prevention and community fire safety will remain a top priority;
- Risk assessment should be at the heart of a modern fire service.
Speaking at the Fire 2000 Conference in Manchester, Mr O'Brien said, "The £10m credit approval allocation specifically for equality and diversity in the fire service is part of the Home Office's commitment to create a modern service which reflects the community it serves. I hope that brigades will take this opportunity to update their facilities and that they will come forward with some proposals for promoting equal opportunities in the fire service."
"Our vision for the future fire service relies upon a fire service which has a well-trained, highly motivated and diverse workforce."
"I will publish in the coming months a detailed strategy with measurable targets, to enable that vision to be realised."
Mr O'Brien emphasised the importance of fire authorities working in partnerships through Best Value reviews to deliver best value for money. An example was in procuring new equipment such as when considering substantial investments like a radio communications system. Concluding, he said, "Under Best Value, fire authorities are already reviewing control and communications provisions and exploring the possible benefits of co-operation and collaboration between brigades and with other emergency services. Best Value is the statutory framework which will hold the future vision of the fire service together."
"The future fire service must be efficient and of high quality, tackle the under-representation of ethnic minority groups and women and be responsive to the needs of the public. Once this has been achieved, will we truly have a fire service for the future."