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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Chief Fire Officer

A number of media interviews today on the appointment of the Chief Fire Officer of the new centralised Fire and Rescue Service in Scotland.

Firstly, congratulations to Alasdair Hay on his appointment. The salary level is significant, but in fairness it doesn't look much out of line with similar sized jobs. The CFO post should be evaluated in the same way as other jobs in the service. What we have a problem with is the introduction of the bonus culture into the public service.

The job is not without it's challenges. We did not support taking these services away from local democratic control and Alasdair Hay will have his work cut out balancing the demands of very different communities across Scotland. He will also have the joy of a minister looking over his shoulder with powers of direction. A national service will rightly result in greater parliamentary scrutiny to plug the democratic deficit.

However, the biggest challenge is achieving an over optimistic savings target, set before a proper business case had been developed. To which you can add the payment of VAT because the Scottish Government decided to centralise services in this way.  While there are some savings from having fewer chief officers, there are significant start up costs involved in bringing together the different services. There will be job losses to meet the savings targets and I suspect that will be achieved by displacing costs onto frontline services. This is almost always the case with shared services.

So a big job with huge challenges. We will of course work constructively to make the best of this mess. But many of the problems could have been avoided with a different approach.

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