Martin Surl withdraws hostile bid to takeover Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service

Jeremy Hilton a strong advocate for the fire service remaining with Gloucestershire County Council

 

Martin Surl the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire has announced that he will not be persuing a hostile bid, allowed under the Police & Crime Act, to takeover the governance of Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service, which is currently governed by the county council.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the fire service, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) welcomed the news.

He said: “This is very good news. The fire and rescue service should stay under the governance of Gloucestershire County Council, as it has done since 1974. My motion to the county council in June opposing a transfer was backed unanimously by all councillors. Mr Surl was alone in wanting to transfer the service.

“The Police and Crime Commisioner has a massive job governing Gloucestershire Constabulary. He needs to concentrate on improving the police service in our county. I’m pleased he has recognised this and has withdrawn his bid to takeover Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service.

“The Fire and Rescue Service is already well run. It does a brilliant job in protecting the people of this county. We all remember the excellet job our firefighters did during the servere floods in 2007.”

Jeremy Hilton objects to hostile takeover of fire service

Jeremy Hilton and the Liberal Democrats are opposed to any plans for Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl taking over the running of the county’s fire service. It is understood that Mr Surl has employed consultants to mount a hostile bid to takeover Gloucestershire’s Fire & Rescue Service.

The Tory Government has passed legislation that would allow a hostile takeover by the local PCC, but Jeremy Hilton – who is running to be Gloucester’s next MP – is against the idea.

“Gloucestershire has one of the best run fire services in the country and should remain under the control of the county council,” he said.

“Moving the fire service would cost a lot of money and would not deliver any savings to tax payers in Gloucestershire. It would undermine the good collaboration that we have between the emergency services in Gloucestershire. Mr Surl should sort out the police service rather than empire building.”

Jeremy Hilton also confirmed that the Liberal Democrat manifesto commits to replacing police and crime commissioners, elected at great expense in elections with very low turnout, with accountable police boards made up of local councillors.

“Hands off our fire service” say Gloucestershire Lib Dems

Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have today voiced disappointment with the Police and Crime Commissioner in accepting £100K to mount a bid to takeover Gloucestershire’s Fire and Rescue Service.

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm & Wotton) who is the Lib Dem national lead on the fire and rescue service at the Local Government Association is firmly opposed to plans of moving the county’s Fire Service under the control of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

In commenting, Cllr. Hilton said:

“Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service is one of the best if not the best in the country thanks to the good governance by the county council under all political administrations.

“Currently it costs £34 per person to operate the Fire Service in Gloucestershire, one of the best rates in the country. To change the governance arrangements of such a service would not only be unnecessary but simply reckless.

“It is not compulsory for our Police and Crime Commissioner, Mr. Surl to put in a bid and one that could severely damage the superb collaboration that already exists between the blue light services at the county’s Tri-Service Centre in Quedgeley.

“A recent inspection undertaken by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and published this month was extremely critical in that Gloucestershire’s Constabulary requires improvement at keeping people safe and reducing crime.

“The report unfavourably went on to say that the county’s force ‘does not use intelligence well to identify threat or risk of harm within its communities, and its problem – solving activity lacks consistency.

“This was a damning inspection report of Mr. Surl’s own force, and it would be highly advisable that he gets his own house in order before unnecessary tampering with a fire & rescue service which is not broke and doesn’t require fixing.”

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Fire & Infrastructure, Cllr. Bernie Fisher (St Paul’s & Swindon) also said:

“There are fundamentally two questions here – one, will transition make it more efficient and less costly to run, and two, will it improve collaboration for better delivery of the service?

“I very much doubt that such a move will satisfy either of these two questions.

“Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service is part of the County Council and includes other services such as Emergency Management, Trading Standards, Registrars, Coroners and the Road Safety Partnership.

“The Service is the most cost effective in England and now provides co-responder services to support the ambulance service, targeted work (particularly around dementia), telecare responses (helping to keep people in their own homes) and has led on community resilience (Including Emergency Management and Trading Standards).

“Their biggest role is now around preventative services for adults. It is a service that now does so much more than putting out fires. To change such a valued and effective service would be foolish.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner, Martin Surl, has used the £100K given to him from the Home Office to appoint PA Consultants of Buckingham Palace Road, London to prepare a business case.

ENDS…

RUSSIAN ROULETTE’ TUMBLE DRYERS NEED RECALLING, URGE FIRE AUTHORITIES

Dangerous tumble dryers prone to exploding into flames need recalling urgently to avoid people “playing Russian roulette” as new figures reveal firefighters are attending three fires a day caused by the appliances.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 48 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, is calling on leading manufacturers to recall faulty tumble dryers which have been linked to thousands of fires caused by excess fluff contacting heating elements.

Government statistics show there were 2,190 tumble dryer fires between 2012 and 2014 – equating to three a day.

Homes have been ruined and in some cases, the machines have burst into flames as people loaded them with clothes. An inquest has opened into the deaths of two men who died after a tumble dryer caught fire.

The LGA is warning that companies who are running lengthy repair programmes for potentially dangerous machines, instead of recalling them, are risking the lives of millions of customers.

It is calling on manufacturers to recall affected tumble driers and for all white goods to have fire-proof markings on them, including the manufacturer, model and serial number, so they can be identified more easily if they are damaged after causing a fire.

Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said:
“People using faulty tumble dryers are unwittingly playing Russian roulette and leading manufacturers need to recall affected models as soon as possible to protect their customers.

“Firefighters are attending tumble dryer fires three times a day, which is alarming. These defective products are endangering lives, causing thousands of pounds of damage to homes and making people homeless.

“People’s safety must be the priority. It’s been months since some manufacturers issued safety warnings over their tumble dryers but they need to be recalled as these appliances are still causing fires – until they do so, consumers continue to risk falling victim to a devastating and tragic house fire.

“Fire-proof markings on all white goods would also help improve manufacturing and safety standards by helping fire investigators identify the make and model of any appliance damaged after causing a fire.

“Users must take simple precautions using tumble dryers. The compartment where fibres from fabric build up should be cleaned out after every load of clothes is dried, to reduce the risk of it igniting, and the vent or any other opening should not be covered.

“People should never leave tumble driers on overnight or when they go out. Anyone buying an electrical item should complete the guarantee registration to ensure goods which do not meet safety specifications are repaired, replaced or refunded. This also enables manufacturers to contact owners in the event of a product recall.
“People also need to ensure they have a working smoke alarm – which can be a life-saver – in the event something does go wrong and test them regularly, ideally once a week.”

Anyone with concerns about the safety of electrical appliances can report them to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Lib Dems secure funding for third year for visits to SkillZone

John Cordwell and Jeremy Hilton experience - the danger in the alley scenario at the SkillZone

John Cordwell and Jeremy Hilton experience – the danger in the alley scenario at the SkillZone

The Liberal Democrats have for the third financial year running secured safety sessions at Gloucester’s SkillZone for all Year 5 school pupils across the county.

Opened in September 2012, SkillZone is a state-of-the-art life size village. There are sixteen interactive zones, which cover a range of scenarios including road, rail, water, home and personal safety. Those pupils going up into Year 5 this September will be able to take advantage of the zones and all what the facility offers.

The Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Fire, Planning and Infrastructure, Cllr. John Cordwell (LD: Wotton-under-Edge) who is also Chair of the Stroud Road Safety Liaison Group said:

“I’m pleased that for the third year running children from schools across Gloucestershire will have the opportunity to visit Gloucester’s SkillZone. It is a great fully interactive facility that is certainly worth a visit.

“The take up over the past couple of years have been good and now it is running into a third year where more Year 5 groups will be able to come and learn how to recognise dangerous situations and stay safe.

“I quote Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) who said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, I’m confident that investment in children’s safety now will help reduce safety incidences in the future”.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD:Kingsholm & Wotton) also said:

“For three years running, the Liberal Democrats have proposed for all Year 5 pupils to visit this facility and evaluations from the last two years have shown the programme to be a huge success.

“Since April 2014, a total of 13,844 children have visited SkillZone and of these 5,598 Year 5 pupils have attended as part of the Liberal Democrat scheme.

“The evaluations undertaken this year shows that 100% of teachers were satisfied (98% very satisfied) with the safety education, 100% of teachers state that they think their pupils’ safety has been increased after the visit (88.5% to a great extent) and 100% felt that the session had a good or very good impact on the children (92% very good).

“The Liberal Democrats have pushed for these visits to happen and I’m delighted that they will be continuing for another year. SkillZone is a fantastic and fun way of getting important safety messages across to our children.

“I’d encourage all schools to take up the opportunity of bringing their Year 5 groups to such a place.”

My statement of Fire & Rescue Service transfer to Home Office

Responding to the announcement that responsibility for the fire service will be transferred from the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Home Office minister for Policing and for Justice, Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, which represents all 46 English fire authorities, said:

“The fire and rescue service is a high performing public service embedding within the local government family and run by local councillors who sit on English fire and rescue authorities.

The recent response to the flooding in Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and Yorkshire has demonstrated that firefighters do a brilliant job assisting those in need whilst working closely alongside the other emergency and public services.

The LGA’s view is that transferring government responsibility from DCLG to the Home Office must not undermine the superb job our fighters provide in times of emergency.

I look forward to working closely with the Mike Penning MP the new fire minister in supporting our firefighters and fire & rescue authorities in the excellent work they do.”

All private landlords should be required to install smoke alarms

Jeremy Hilton holding easy to purchase and fit smoke alarms

Jeremy Hilton holding easy to purchase and fit smoke alarms

New laws must be introduced to ensure all private landlords install smoke alarms, say fire and rescue authorities.

Currently, landlords are not legally obliged to install smoke alarms unless they are renting out houses with a substantial number of tenants – called Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). This means there are 3.5 million smaller private rental homes which legally do not have to have them. The Government passed a law in 2013 which would require all private landlords to provide smoke alarms. However, this has gone out to consultation and has not yet been brought into force.

Fire and Rescue Authorities in England and Wales are calling for the law to be enacted so all private landlords are obliged to install them. They also want electrical wiring to be inspected annually – in the same way landlords are obliged to obtain gas safety certificates every year.

The call comes as latest figures show more than 200 people die in fires in their homes every year. (This figure covers both rental and owner occupier properties.) Householders are at least four times more likely to die in a fire if they do not have a working smoke alarm.

Fire and Rescue Authorities are taking a lead by giving out free alarms and launching safety awareness campaigns. However, given the tough austerity climate, they argue it must be down to private landlords to ensure alarms are installed.

Mandatory smoke alarms is set to be a key issue at the LGA’s annual fire conference in Gateshead, from March 10-11th. The call forms a central part of the LGA’s key report ‘The Fire and Rescue Service: Making our Nation Safer’, which is being launched today (Saturday).  This document sets out a blueprint for the next government, with a series of proposals for how fire and rescue services can improve fire safety and save the public purse money.

Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said:

“Many people will be shocked that most landlords are not obliged to install smoke alarms. The current laws are outdated and inadequate – and without question lives are being put at risk.

“While the majority of private landlords are reputable and voluntarily install alarms, there are a small minority who don’t, needlessly putting lives at risk. They have a duty of care to ensure their tenants are safe.

“This is why we are calling on the Government to enact the law and ensure all private landlords install smoke alarms – and save hundreds of lives every year.

“A working smoke alarm can make the difference between life and death and should be seen as every bit as essential as a lock on the front door. By spending just a few pounds, landlords can save lives.

“In the meantime, we would urge anyone who hasn’t got one fitted already to make sure they are not needlessly putting themselves at risk of the death and destruction fire can cause by getting in touch with their local fire & rescue service requesting a home safety check.”

Mark Cashin, Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Cheshire and Chair of the Chief Fire Officers Association’s Home Safety Committee, said:

“While death and injuries from fires have reduced considerably in recent years, the majority of victims continue to be those who are most vulnerable, often living in private rented accommodation.

“This change would improve the safety of families and stop dozens of people from losing their lives to fire each year. The cost to landlords is small, with a ten year sealed alarm costing around £15.”

 

Fire safety of e-cigarettes warning by Jeremy Hilton

Graphic safety messages should be displayed on all e-cigarette chargers say fire authorities, after shock new statistics show a surge in fires connected to the devices.

Latest reported figures from fire services up and down the country reveal that since 2012 they have attended 113 calls to e-cigarette-related blazes. There were just eight call-outs in 2012 but this soared to 43 last year and there have been at least 62 so far this year. This means firefighters are now dealing with e-cigarette related incidents at more than one a week.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents all 46 fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, fears that these are the “tip of the iceberg” and many cases go unreported. The warning comes during national Electrical Fire Safety Week, which is run by the Electrical Safety Council charity. E-cigarettes have rocketed in popularity and are now used by an estimated 2.1 million Britons each year.

These latest statistics come just weeks after a 62-year-old man died when an e-cigarette battery on charge exploded and ignited oxygen equipment he was believed to have been using.
Fire chiefs say many blazes are taking place because smokers are not using compatible chargers. This means too much current goes into the batteries and they overheat and eventually explode. Battery material shoots out – up to two to three metres in distance – and can cause a fire if it lands on anything combustible.

Now the LGA is calling for e-cigarette manufacturers to do more to warn of the dangers. This includes displaying prominent safety warnings, highlighting this issue, on e-cigarette kits and chargers.

Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said: “The spiralling upward trend of fires connected with e-cigarettes is a major cause for concern and much more needs to be done to combat it. We expect this to continue to rise as more smokers switch to e-cigarettes. Alarmingly, there is no way of knowing the true figure as we understand many cases are going unreported.

“We are urging e-cigarette manufacturers to introduce clear, prominent and graphic new warnings spelling out to users the dangers of using incompatible chargers with e-cigarette batteries.

“Tragically, at least one life has been claimed and more fatalities could follow unless this issue is addressed rigorously and robustly.

“We are warning users that it is simply not worth risking their lives to save a few pounds by buying dodgy, dangerous or incompatible chargers”
Ends…

E-CIGARETTE SAFETY TIPS

E-cigarette users are advised to follow these safety tips when charging:

* Always use the correct charger and follow the manufacturer’s instructions
* Never charge a battery that has signs of damage, that has been dropped, or has been subjected to impact
* Never plug a charger into a non-approved mains power transformer
* Check that your e-cigarette battery has overcharge or overheat protection
* Remove the battery from charge when complete – don’t over charge
* Never leave a battery on charge unattended
* Don’t use if wet or exposed to water
* Do not over tighten the atomiser or when connecting to charger
* Ensure that you dispose of batteries correctly.
 

Fire and Rescue Service to remain with local government thanks to the Lib Dems

Commenting on the news that the government will not be transferring responsibility for fire and rescue services to Police and Crime Commissioners, Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Lib Dem Fire Spokesperson at the LGA said:

“The future of the Fire and Rescue Service is best served by it remaining under the governance of democratically elected councillors sitting on local Fire and Rescue Authorities.

The controversial proposal to transfer responsibility of the fire and rescue service to Police and Crime Commissioners was advocated by Conservative government ministers. They did not get their way.

I am pleased that Liberal Democrats in government thwarted this plan. It was outside the Coalition agreement.

The proposal would have placed an extra burden on the Police and Crime Commissioners and removed the excellent democratic contribution that councillors make in the running of the fire and rescue services throughout England.

“There is important work to be done in developing better collaboration between all blue light services. Changing the governance of the fire service at this time would just be an unnecessary distraction.”

ENDS