Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler - who served as a Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Officer for 16 years before being elected to the Assembly - along with party colleague Doug Beattie MC, has met with the Senior Management Team at the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) and with officers of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). He has restated his belief that proposals to slash crews as a result of budgetary pressures will likely lead to increased response times and a rise in danger to public safety.
Robbie Butler MLA said:
“I would like to thank the senior management team at NIFRS and the FBU for affording me time to outline my concerns over how the proposed changes will alter service delivery and the effect I believe it will have on the safety of operational personnel and the public.
“I am however surprised at the speed of implementation of the proposed interim measures and the apparent lack of consultation.
“There can be no doubting the immense pressures faced by the Chief Fire Officer delivering a professional front line service, tasked annually with providing more specialised and diverse response requirements. However, I still maintain that the dilution of resilience and response capability in these proposals is not welcome nor risk appropriate.
“In my opinion, the complicated system that is being suggested needs to be further developed and tested before it is rolled out, if ever. I have further concerns about the training and supervisory capacity being maintained within this “interim” model, as this is core to the fire service model of keeping staff safe.
“My desire to see a Fire & Rescue Service that delivers the highest levels of safety and protection, which is also fit for the 21st century and provides good value to the tax payer, will require a move away from the ridiculously restrictive one year budgets that shackle the NIFRS and hamper true transformation. It is long past time that we had a Minister and Executive in place to implement the call previously made by the Ulster Unionist Party, to implement 3 to 5 year indicative budgets that will allow for true transformation and service improvement.”