Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire (Service).

I hate to think how many times I have heard that the Fire and Rescue Service want to take over the running of Ambulance Services! This old chestnut comes around every few years. John F. Kennedy once said:

‘A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on’. If he had known about the Chief  Fire Officers Association (CFOA) he would have added ‘but some ideas should be strangled at birth for all our sakes!’

Actually, I do them a dis-service, they do not want to run all of the Ambulance Service, oh no, they only want to run the emergency side of the Ambulance Service!

That’s a surprise! They want to cherry pick!

They are happy to see the Patient Transport and Support Services be cast aside and swallowed up by private firms thereby repeating the Coalition Governments myths about ‘frontline v non frontline’.

Peter Holland, president of the CFOA, says the idea could save money and improve the service with faster response times. The fire chiefs were down at the Conservative Party conference this week running a fringe meeting to convince the government to take up their proposal.

This is a complete – I was going to say red herring – but in the circumstances it is very apt to say it is a complete – smoke screen!

This has nothing to do with improving patient care, nothing to do with improving response times, nothing to do with having a unified national emergency service for the benefit of the UK and nothing to do with saving money.

But it has everything to do with potential budget cuts within the fire service. Up to 25% of their budget is being rumoured to be cut by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) which controls their funding.

That is serious of course.

I would have thought going to the Conservative Party conference to complain would have been the honourable thing to do, not go to propose a take over bid for another public service!

The Ambulance Service Network which represents ambulance services is completely opposed to this. Chief Ambulance Officers are completely opposed to this. Unison are completely opposed to this.

The truth is, of course, that they would not be able to run the Ambulance Service.

Ambulance Services have changed. We are not the ‘cinderella’ service of yesteryear, but a clinically led, professional Service at the heart of the National Health Service.

If the Chief Fire Officers really believed that these budget cuts will damage the Fire Service, restrict firefighters from responding and place the public in danger, then they should join with, and support, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in their fight against them.

Running to Birmingham to peddle out of date ideas like these which have seen their day, weakens, not strengthens, public services.

Shame on you Fireman Sam!


Lord Hutton’s interim report on Public Sector pensions was released today. It is clear that our final salary scheme is under threat. Increases in employee contributions, higher retirement age and lower value pensions are all in the mix.

All this because public sector workers are living longer. How dare we!

Unison has already responded to this interim report (it is on the website) and we await the final report on 15th October 2010.


Unison London Region are organising a Lobby of Parliament and a rally on the 19th October 2010. This is the day before the announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

The rally starts at 12.30 (doors open 12.15) at Central Hall Westminster (just across the road from Westminster Abbey). Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary will be the main speaker.

The London Ambulance Unison Branch will have a presence at the rally and any member who would like to join us please email me and Eddie Brand (Branch Chair) to confirm.

There will be an opportunity afterwards for members to lobby their local MP. How to do this will be on the website.


The Union has been pursuing a resolution for those members of staff who were stranded abroad at the time of the Volcanic Ash clouds last April. Extra annual leave had to be used of course.

The Service has written to those staff members with a list of options regarding this extra leave but, the bottom line is, however sympathetic the Service are, that extra leave taken will be deducted (one way or other) from this years  entitlement.

We do not believe that is right. It was no fault of staff. It was an extraordinary natural phenomena. We do not, however, think that the Service should carry all the costs and that is why we put forward a proposal to ‘share’ the burden.

Our proposal was that the Service to give half of the extra leave taken back to staff, and the staff member to have the other half deducted from their entitlement.

That proposal has now been formally rejected.

Unison are very disappointed at the approach of management throughout all of this, but there are no further avenues that the union can go with this issue.


If you are reading this, work for the London Ambulance Service and are not yet a member of the union: Join Today!

We are stronger together.

Eric Roberts

Branch Secretary