Positive action discriminates against the white communityDECEMBER 2010:
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority have published the consultation document to its draft Corporate Plan 2011-14 and is asking the region's elected representatives, including the North West MEPs, for feedback.
After lengthy discussions with Nick Griffin over the contents of the document, Constituency Office Manager Tina Wingfield, has submitted the following response.
"Mr Griffin has asked me to reply to you on his behalf.
Firstly, he offers his sincere thanks to the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) for the excellent work it undertakes in preventing and responding to emergencies. Based on the correspondence he receives from his constituents in the Greater Manchester area, it is clear that the service provided is extremely valued and the dedication of your personnel very much appreciated.
The Corporate Plan is an extensive and informative document which will be very helpful to anyone with an interest in the work of the Fire Service, especially in the current economic climate, with public concern about potential public sector “cutbacks” at an all-time high, and it is commendable that the GMFRS has taken the time to outline its strategy for the next four years.
It is evident that the authors of the Plan have endeavoured to conform to the anticipated requirements of the new Coalition Government; with the emphasis placed on proposing a way forward which “strikes a balance between managing risk and managing resources” and this gives some cause for concern. With reference, again, to the correspondence received from Mr Griffin’s constituents, I would be grateful if you could clarify a few points which arise from the Plan.
· It is quite correct that the GMFRS should be committed to delivering an integrated, locally managed service. Common sense dictates that local knowledge is crucial in determining an effective and timely front-line response to local emergencies. How can this commitment to localism be achieved however, if the Greater Manchester Fire Service’s own Control Room is to be replaced in 2012 with a Regional Control Centre (based in Warrington), which will serve all five Fire and Rescue Services in the North West: Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria? Mr Griffin has spoken to staff in some of the Service Control Rooms and they are deeply concerned that the move to a centralized regional control facility will result in unnecessary and preventable delays in dispatching fire crews to emergency situations.
· Given that the GMFRS has over recent years “delivered the highest efficiency savings figure within English Fire and Rescue Services” by driving down demand and investing savings where possible in preventative community safety initiatives, how can the Service achieve the significant budget reductions (25% of the current grant) demanded by the Coalition Government? If the Service has already been cut to the bone, and the reduction in the central grant cannot be counterbalanced through a council tax increase, where are the £19 million savings to be found? The new crewing approach - “optimum crewing” - raises particular concerns, given that this means essentially that there will be “less employees overall, with everyone doing more” and “involves taking some of [the] appliances/personnel on and off line on different days and at different times.” Mr Griffin’s constituents fear that front-line services will be undermined by these personnel, infrastructure and equipment cuts.
· Can you please confirm whether the Service’s commitment to provide "equitable service delivery by a workforce that is representative of the communities it serves" involves a policy of positive discrimination in terms of personnel recruitment? Mr Griffin has received a substantial post-bag from North West constituents keen to join the fire service who have attended recruitment open-evenings, only to be told they would not be considered because the recruitment drive was targeting "the ethnic minority communities" in order to equalise community representation within the Service. Positive action in favour of particular community groups must necessarily have a negative impact on others, and Mr Griffin’s constituents fear that it will be the majority white community that is discriminated against if a "positive" discrimination recruitment policy is adopted by the GMFRS.
· Finally, it is noted in the Plan that “the risk of terrorist incidents in the future is uncertain, but the need and expectation to be prepared remains high and there will remain a need to be able to deploy large numbers of appliances and personnel from time to time.” In light of the fact that the bomb attacks in London on 7/7 were carried out by home-grown, British Muslim extremists, coupled with the fact that Greater Manchester has “some of the country’s most vibrant communities”, do you consider it will be feasible to provide sufficient cover for this potential terrorism risk within the severe resource restraints now imposed on the GMFRS?
Mr Griffin will be grateful for your help in clarifying the issues of concern raised above."