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Oxfordshire firefighters voice opposition to the Direct Entry Scheme


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Oxfordshire fire service faces protest over hiring inexperienced managers

In a demonstration outside the Oxfordshire County Council, firefighters have demanded the reversal of a decision to employ senior fire service managers lacking experience in firefighting or the fire service.

This decision, part of a new initiative known as the Direct Entry Scheme, is being met with strong resistance.

Direct Entry Scheme sparks controversy among firefighters

Currently, the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is advertising a role for a Station Manager in the region.

This position does not require any experience in the fire and rescue sector, a requirement part of the contested Direct Entry Scheme.

The FBU Oxfordshire Brigade committee has openly criticized the scheme. Firefighters from across the region have voted against it.

FBU branches passed a motion stating the Direct Entry is “not the way forwards”. They have expressed concerns about the “watering down of our managers at an operational level” and the possibility of “limiting opportunities for existing staff to progress”.

Public sentiment mirrors the opposition shown by firefighters. A public petition urging the Oxfordshire County Council to abandon the Direct Entry scheme has amassed over 500 signatures in less than a day.

Direct Entry Scheme contradicts HMICFRS report findings

The FBU has highlighted that the Direct Entry Scheme contradicts the recommendations from the latest HMICFRS report on Oxfordshire’s Fire and Rescue Service.

The report concluded that the service requires improvement in managing and developing its leaders. It suggested that robust and meaningful performance management arrangements be put in place for staff and that all staff be supported to achieve their full potential.

Oxfordshire is one among seven UK fire and rescue services piloting the Direct Entry Scheme, promoted by the National Fire Chief Council (NFCC).

Firefighters throughout the UK have expressed reservations about the scheme. Greater Manchester FRS dropped the scheme following local opposition.

Steve Wright, FBU Executive Council member for the Southern Region, voiced his concerns: “When the worst happens and the public needs protecting from a major fire, we all assume that the firefighters responding will know how to fight a fire.

“However, ‘Direct Entry’ means that people with absolutely no experience of the fire service will be parachuted into crucial senior positions. Just imagine taking charge of a major operation without having ever attended one as a firefighter.”

Wright further argued: “Our firefighters should be supported and trained up to develop as leaders in the service.

“Direct Entry just adds insult to injury by cutting opportunities while putting the public at risk. Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service must see sense and follow the example of Greater Manchester by dropping this scheme.”

IFSJ Comment

This development sheds light on the current debates around fire service management and training in the UK.

The protests against the Direct Entry Scheme indicate a widespread concern about maintaining high standards in leadership and operational efficiency in fire and rescue services.

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