The influential House of Commons Defence select committee has called for ‘a pause’ over the possible privatisation of Ministry of Defence (MoD) firefighters.
Unite has welcomed the committee’s letter to defence secretary Gavin Williamson expressing ‘a number of concerns’ about the outsourcing of the Defence Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS) which provide cover on MoD sites.
Unite wrote last month to the select committee outlining to MPs its serious concerns which centre on adequate provision of cover at bases vital for national security should privatisation take place and ‘value for money’ for the taxpayer.
It is understood that the two outsourcing giants still in the bidding for the firefighters’ contract are Capita and Serco which both have chequered records when it comes to service delivery.
The select committee chair Dr Julian Lewis has written to the defence secretary expressing MPs’ concern ‘by the apparent lack of progress on the Defence Fire Rescue Project’ whose cost is expected to be more than £400 million.
Dr Lewis wrote, “In the light of these delays, recent developments and the record of the remaining bidders, the committee has a number of concerns about the project, and would urge you to pause any decision, so that you can consider whether it should be abandoned.”
In the meantime, the committee has asked Gavin Williamson a set of questions about the proposal that it would like answered by the middle of next month.
“We welcome the intervention of the select committee in calling for the defence secretary to institute a pause while the full implications of what is envisaged is forensically analysed,” said Unite national officer for the MoD Jim Kennedy.
“This expensive saga has been dragging on for at least nine years and already cost the hard-pressed taxpayer millions of pounds.
“Privatisation of these services at MoD bases raises serious concerns for national security. Our case has been strengthened by the recent collapse of the outsourcing giant Carillion which was not exactly an advertisement for the benefits of privatisation.
“Unite believes that the plug should be pulled on this fractured and flawed privatisation exercise.”
Unite points out privatisation will lead to job losses at the same time as local authority fire services have also experienced cuts to staff and the closure of fire stations, many of them in rural areas where MoD bases are situated.