THE Fire Brigades Union has appealed to the Home Office, which is now in charge of the fire service, to save the service from devastating cuts of around 30% imposed under the control of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
This appeal is akin to calling on an alcoholic to save the planet from drunkenness! The job of the Home Office will be to press ahead with both bigger cuts and the complete integration of the Fire and Rescue Service, and also the ambulance service into the capitalist state, side by side with the police, under the authority of the local Police Commissioners, who are made up of retired but keen politicians desperate to continue serving the state, by helping to organise the Tory offensive against the working class.
In this scheme of things there is no place for the FBU. In fact, by urging the Home Office leopard to change its spots and halt the cuts, the FBU leader Matt Wrack is sowing illusions in the state, while it sharpens the knife to be used to cut the throats of the FBU and its members to carry out more cuts.
The fact is that the British ruling class has been greatly impressed at the vast numbers of police, troops and firefighters operating water cannon that the French ruling class has been able to bring out onto the streets at a moment’s notice, during the present and continuing ‘terrorist crisis’.
It wants to have the same type of all-powerful capitalist state and gendarmerie here. This is what May, and the Home Office are up to. Appealing to them to save the fire service is a mistake of the same type as turkeys welcoming the approach of the Christmas festivities!
However, even Matt Wrack has had to make some of his reservations and illusions about the Tory plans public. Talking about the fire service being run by the Home Office he said: ‘This move doesn’t allay any of our fears and concerns about PCCs (Police and Crime Commissioners) taking over the running of the Fire and Rescue Service, but it could provide an opportunity for the Home Office to show solid commitment to stopping the service being further dismantled.
‘The DCLG has washed its hands of public safety by cutting the Fire and Rescue Service to the bone, and it hasn’t listened to any of the stakeholders or experts including the FBU. This has to change under the Home Office.’ There will be no such change!
He adds: ‘We have always agreed with close collaboration with other emergency services, but we remain concerned that the takeover of our service by PCCs will mean a loss of our independence and a threat to the professionalism of firefighters. We will seek assurances from the new minister that the distinct nature of our work will continue to be recognised under future arrangements. In fact it is the distinct nature of the work that is to be changed.
On firefighter pay, he pleads: ‘The government has talked a lot about “harmonisation” between police and firefighters – it would be nice if we might start looking at harmonisation of pay as well.’ Harmonisaton of pay upwards is obviously out of the question. In fact harmonisation downwards is the aim.
Under these plans for a national paramilitary gendarmerie even police chiefs are being sidelined, since the government thinks that many of them have too great a regard for ‘out of date’ concepts of formal legality and would not be easily persuaded to dump these ‘democratic concepts’ overnight to defend the rule of the capitalist class.
This is why Police Commissioners, often elected by between 10% and 14% of the voting public are being put in charge, so that their dictates, as the crisis develops will be said to be the will of the people.
They are to be in charge, under the Home Office, of the police and the fire service and the ambulance service in their areas to form a national gendarmerie for use against the working class and the trade unions, after the current Trade Union Bill becomes law.
The FBU must refuse to be part of this gendarmerie and must urge the TUC to take action against this government to bring it down with a general strike to go forward to a workers government and socialism. This is what has to be done!