THE Fire Brigades Union has written to the government to demand it rethinks its decision to reject a key Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendation, on the evacuation of disabled residents of high-rise buildings.
The inquiry recommended that ‘that the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs)’ for all disabled residents.
But last month the government rejected the recommendation and revealed downgraded plans, which have been roundly criticised including by Grenfell campaigners and disability rights campaigners.
The government had promised to implement the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one recommendations ‘in full’, of which this is one.
In a letter to Lord Greenhalgh dated 6 June 2022, Minister of State for Building Safety, Fire and Communities, Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary wrote:
‘The FBU was disappointed with the Westminster government’s decision to downgrade work towards ensuring residents with disabilities are provided with Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs).
‘The government statement claims that implementation would involve significant issues with practicality, proportionality and safety. The FBU argues that resident safety is paramount, so there is a greater safety issue in declining to implement PEEPs.
‘As for proportionality, the Inquiry has found the introduction of PEEPs to be a proportionate strategy, and the FBU agrees.
‘Some reasons given for the refusal seem poorly evidenced, for example stating that if a PEEP advised the purchase of an evacuation chair, there would be an ‘impact on the good relations between disabled residents and non-disabled residents if disproportionate costs were passed on to the latter. Building owners should carry the costs.’
He continued: ‘The government’s decision is a negative, backward step, and the FBU stands with disability campaigners, the Grenfell campaign groups and the LGA in asking you to reconsider.’
15 out of 37 disabled Grenfell Tower residents lost their lives in the fire.
- Meanwhile, an organisation representing fire service bosses has been accused of attempting to block firefighters receiving the pensions they are legally entitled to, via a secret letter.
The letter was circulated in secret by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), and its existence has only been revealed after it was posted anonymously to the Fire Brigade Union’s head office.
The firefighters affected are those not receiving their full pension benefits.
‘The FBU through the courts won a legal challenge on whether the government’s transitional protection arrangements to their pensions were discriminatory.
‘The courts’ decision was that their full pension entitlement should be paid. The government has stated that they are not prepared to do this until October 2023, which has left many retired firefighters facing financial hardship.
As a consequence of the secret letter the union is now planning to go to court on behalf of every member who continues to be denied their full pension.
Mark Rowe, Fire Brigades Union national officer, commented: ‘Chief fire officers need to look after their people. It beggars belief that – in the middle of a cost of living crisis – the NFCC is proactively seeking to keep retired firefighters’ pensions down via a letter they don’t have the integrity or courage to make public.
‘This letter makes an already difficult situation even worse.
‘It places another barrier in the way of firefighters receiving the pensions they deserve.
‘It’s disgraceful that currently retired firefighters, some of whom have retired on grounds of ill-health, are less likely to receive the pensions they are legally entitled to.
‘It’s an outcome that badly lets down retired and current firefighters and the FBU will do everything in its power to protect our members’ pensions.’
In a circular to all of its members the union said: ‘As a consequence of the spiteful, unprofessional and amateurish interference of the NFCC … the Fire Brigades Union will now register through the courts immediate detriment claims for every FBU member who is being denied their full pension.’