Friday, 14 March 2014

CFO's blog 14 March 2014

Now I know some of those who read this Blog are not great football fans but there are some reasons why there should be a bit of a sporting theme this week.   What a great sporting weekend we had, starting off with Chelsea putting to bed any lingering hopes that Spurs had of finding themselves playing with the 'big boys' in Europe next year; back to the drawing board for the 'Lilywhites'!

Then we had one of the finest rugby matches at Twickenham with England demolishing the Welsh and storming to a great victory. My somewhat exuberant celebrations were in part due to the physical and psychological memories I have of school, where we had to play rugby and run cross-country in all weathers, and the unbridled joy of our teachers, particularly the Welsh contingent who were rugby mad, and who loved nothing better than showing us what fine rugby players they were, with their impression of 'valley rucking', like a scene out of the movie Kes. Then we had to endure the mullerings the England team received at the hands of the brilliant Welsh team of the 1970s.  They say 'revenge is a dish best served cold' so I'm enjoying the win over Owain Glyndwr descendants and looking forward to the Rugby World Cup next year. 

But putting that all in context, I have to say my admiration has to go to the GB Paralympic team; the Paralympians are just incredible and are role models for all of us, overcoming adversity and just getting on with their lives in a way that would put many of us to shame if we were honest with ourselves.  Too many of us whinge and moan about trivialities and I must accept that I sometimes get wound up about things that 'in the big scheme' are pretty insignificant.  So many congratulations to the GB Paralympian Team, you are all heroes. 

Condolences to the family of Bob Crow, the trade union leader who has headed the RMT for 12 years and who passed away this week at the relatively young age of 52. There has been much said about Bob Crow this week, with a recognition that though you may not have agreed with his views, he was a man who fought for his trade union beliefs and for the members he represented and was a man of conviction.

My week:

* attended the LGA Conference with the Chairman, Cllr Buchannan and Cllr Theobald; a very well attended event with challenging speakers including the Fire Minister, Chief Fire & Rescue Advisor, FBU General Secretary and the Chair of the Fire Services Management Committee. Discussion on whether firefighters could take on a greater emergency healthcare role with a number of FRSs already involved in emergency trauma response; also discussion on national resilience with credit given to FRSs for their response to recent flooding; concerns raised about the savings Services are having to make with almost all having already significantly reduced operational posts and introduced new crewing arrangements; very useful opportunity for our politicians to see what changes other Fire Authorities have already introduced

* we held a Members Seminar at HQ which was opened by Cllr. Howson; very well attended and great presentations including David Kemp who spoke about our community volunteers. The Fire Authority are delighted with the fantastic work our volunteers undertake and are keen to see this network expand. Councillors then broke into small groups to look at specific aspects of the IRMP and service transformation proposals that are out to consultation and discussed the savings that will have to be made and their plan to implement over the next 4/5 year period.

*. had a meeting with the Chairman to discuss recent comments in the media about the Fire Authority's proposals and our plans for public meetings. Also looked at the Newhaven proposals and the Chairman discussed the opportunities for closer working with Sussex Police, SECAmb, WSFRS and Surrey FRS; the Fire Authority are very keen to make better use of our fire stations and to encourage other services and local authorities to use them

*. met with Mark Rist and Hannah Scott-Youldon to discuss how we are working within a regional and national context on learning and development issues; there has been some great work by our team who are playing a key role influencing regional ways of working and really pleasing to see how training is progressing in ESFRS and the very high numbers of staff who are maintaining their qualifications and their operational competency

* telephone conference with HR Director in Bucks FRS who is part of the team developing the Fire Professional Framework; currently reviewing the skills and competencies of crew and watch commanders alongside the behaviours we would expect to see of these supervisory leaders; a questionnaire has been developed which will go out to crew and watch commanders across the country and this will link to a revision of national occupational standards

*  discussed with PPE manufacturers the move towards a layered approach  for protective clothing;  some good work going on which should provide a greater degree of flexibility, protection and comfort for firefighters depending on whether they are structural firefighting, working at an RTC or at other rescue scene

*. met up with an old colleague I used to work with who is now an FBU regional official and it was a good opportunity to talk about the union's approach to some of the challenges we are facing; always nice to meet up with friends from watches that I worked on many years ago!

*. a great weekend with a number of our community fire stations taking part in the firefighters charity car wash; I went along to my local team at Seaford where I got a very fine wash and brush up and the offer of a cup of tea! Eastbourne, Crowborough, Uckfield and Bexhill were all in action raising much need funds for the charity, well done to all the crews involved.  It was also great to see one of our longest serving Crew Commanders Mick Rigelsford back at Seaford; Mick has not been well for some time but in his own words, 'feeling much better' and great to see him back on the station. Mick joined the Service back in 1975 and is one of the few people old enough to remember when the North London duo of Arsenal and Spurs last won a trophy!

This weekend firefighters will once again be out cleaning cars to raise money for the Firefighters Charity; crews from Battle and Roedean will be getting out the high pressure hose and soap suds to give the best car wash this side of the South Downs, so please let neighbours and friends know that if they want their car to have a real treat whilst getting some home safety advice at the same time, then get down to your local community fire station this Saturday.