Risk to reputation: trade or serve? Is the Fire Service risking its valuable reputation by seeking to charge the public for non-essential services? Is there a contradiction in being a fire safety enforcer and consultant at the same time? Is it worth the risk of setting up a trading company for marginal profits and potentially large losses? These were just some of the questions raised at a recent parliamentary seminar.(Seminar Report)

"YOU HAVE A UNIQUE STANDING in society, a strong brand that you are putting at risk at your peril Once lost, it will be gone forever," Jonathon O'Neill, Managing Director of the Fire Prevention Association told delegates. "Fire prevention is what you're all about now--if you jeopardise your unique access to the community you risk that position ... your branding and reputation can get seriously damaged indeed," so went the strongest criticism leveled at the Fire Industry Confederation event, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group.

FIC Concerns

Prior to Mr O'Neill's impassioned plea for restraint, FIC General Manager David Bonnett outlined industry concerns. He also pointed to the fact that charging powers have been around since the Fire Service Act 1947, but have been taken forward in the Local Government Act 2003 and the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. However, he maintained that consistency was the key issue. "What are the policies?" he enquired.

He outlined the FIC's concerns as: a possible conflict of interest with the enforcing authority role; use of public resources in commercial business (a theme returned to in debate as several delegates argued against using a public brand for commercial gain); the improbability of a level playing field; and, will competition be fair? …

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