Local area agreements--the real opportunity for the FRS to address the equalities issue?


In the February edition of the FIRE, Nick Collins, CFOA Director of Service and Corporate Support explored the 'citizens agenda' and what it means for the Fire and Rescue Service. A key element of this agenda is the increasing role of Local Area Agreements (LAAs) which are clearly designed to focus the public sector on what is important within its own communities. How these will affect the fire and rescue service is still an issue that is being resolved. In some authority areas the inclusion of the limited fire service indicators will be successful. However, others like ourselves in Nottinghamshire, will struggle to get the indicators recognised as a priority, particularly against a backdrop of competing demands from other partners. This is of concern, as the role the fire and rescue service now plays in our society has been formed by the modernisation process and our ability to influence areas where other services may have previously struggled. It also may inadvertently remove the potential for the Service, through partnership working, to address the issues of equality and diversity within employment for our organisation for the future.

As we await the outcomes of Communities and Local Government consultation on the equality and diversity strategy it is worth considering new and innovative approaches--in addition to the potential targets being considered within the consultation--that will give fire and rescue services greater potential to engage with, recruit and retain staff from underrepresented groups. What we know is that as the turnover of staff is passing its peak in a number of fire and rescue services, we will need to address a key aspect of equality within the UK; place and identity, the real route to improving recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups within the fire and rescue service. This is one of the key principles of the LAAs which encourage recognition that: "Every place is different with distinctive strengths and needs" [1]--a key statement within the ethos of creating the strong and prosperous communities that we all desire and strive for within our respective areas. …

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