Delivering the keynote address at today's Fire Industry Association conference, Fire Sector Partnership Chairman Brian Robinson condemned protectionist working in the sector.

"The Coalition Government's stance on fire, as portrayed by Bob Neill, is to step back from hands-on management," FSP Chairman Brian Robinson told delegates at the FIA's annual conference from the Heritage Motor Centre in Warwickshire. The problem, however is that the sector "is demonstrably silo-driven", whilst being constrained by the "financial architecture", he said.

The days of a hands-on, centrally-driven Civil Service are gone, he stated. "It is not possible that this or any other government will go back to that way of working."

Commending Fire Minister Bob Neill as being "experienced and very able, understanding the intricacies of a silo-driven sector," he said the government has stepped back and now expects the wider fire sector to move into the gap. "Is the sector mature enough to do that?" he challenged. However, the Minister "is insistent that the wider fire sector will take the lead," Mr Robinson informed.

The whole structure of policy delivery has been stopped, Mr Robinson explained, referring to a "nameless civil servant" as telling him that "we've stopped the illusion that we were ever doing anything."

The challenge, Mr Robinson explained, is how to fill the gap "when we are not used to determining some of our own policies."

 

Fire Sector Partnership

Looking back to the emergence of the Fire Sector Partnership, Mr Robinson suggested it mainly came about from the national interest report on the built environment, "one of the best documents ever produced," delivered by a group of 20 industry experts led by Mike Woods from Pilkington.

"The Fire Sector Partnership was born of a demonstrable need that the sector coming together would best protect the public. If silos can't work together to improve the protection of people, then there is no place for them. If their power base is more important to them then something is very wrong."

The Fire Sector Partnership consists of about 40 organisations, he explained, which has been formally recognised by CLG and the Fire Minister. Also of importance was endorsement by groups such as the Fire Brigades Union, he said, commending Dave Sibert for his contribution in leading on technical issues. "Partnerships in fire can develop industry standards," he suggested, referring to the Health and Safety Executive stating that it will endorse industry standards if they come from a wider group. CLG have made a similar statement, Mr Robinson informed, "depending on what it is".

Looking to the future, Mr Robinson said the partnership is starting to bring the sector together, with a constitution in place, funding organised and a business plan in development. More importantly, he stressed, is "that working together is the single most important thing. Breaking silos, horizontal integration - as the Americans say - is for the greater good of those who live and work in the built environment and for the future of the Fire and Rescue Service."

The alternative, he suggested, is that the Americans are extremely interested in filling the gap in the market, as are the Europeans, when it comes to standards. "I hope we can achieve the sort of partnership the sector deserves because of what it delivers," he concluded.

 

Posted March 15th, 2012 at 1525 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: andrew.lynch@pavpub.com