A leading defence trade union have declared their support for the call from the defence select committee to pause the outsourcing of the Defence Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) and look at abandoning the project altogether.
Last month Julian Lewis, the chair of the defence select committee wrote to defence secretary Gavin Williamson outlining a “number of concerns” the committee had about the project and asking that it should be paused and potentially abandoned.
Currently it is understood that Capita and Serco have bid for the project, which has an expected value of around £400m.
Garry Graham, the deputy general secretary of Prospect, the union representing the officers at DFRS, has written to MPs to express the union’s support for Mr Lewis’ letter and set out a number of additional concerns about the progress of the project.
The concerns raised by Prospect include:
- They firmly believe the projected savings cannot be delivered without increasing the risk to defence.
- That the existing in house provision has been systematically run down with massive cuts and underfunding stifling the ability for the in house service to deliver efficiencies and introduce new technology.
- Although the whole life cost of the project is estimated to be around £400m they believe that the true cost of the provision of fire risk management to defence is more likely to be in the order of £1.2bn (when the governance organisation, defence fire safety regulator, Cyprus Locally employed civilians, USVF staff, RAF and Royal Navy firefighters and extant multi activity contracts are included.
- They believe that the contract does not include additional work such as the maintenance of fire extinguishers at MOD establishments. This is currently done by the in house service but would need to be done through another contract and borne by local budgets which are already heavily squeezed at a cost of approx. £7,000 per 100 extinguishers per annum. The cost of this additional work has not been considered.
- They believe bidders have been offered c£60m towards the cost of new vehicles with moves to make these purchases VAT exempt.
- That any projected savings need to be subject to independent scrutiny. For example, statements have been made about projected savings on pensions costs which may be inaccurate.
Garry Graham said:
“It is essential that the government listen to the defence select committee and the unions before it is too late. Our view has always been that the in house option was never given a fair hearing or support.
There is a very real risk that the MOD will end up paying over the odds for a much worse service than they would have had if they had just invested properly in the in house service and the dedicated staff who work there.
The constant drive to outsource services is not working for the MOD, the taxpayer or the workforce, and it is time for ministers step back and make the right decision to protect this service for the future.”
A copy of the letter sent to Julian Lewis by the deputy general secretary of Prospect is provided here.
Photo By Le Deluge [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons.