The Ministry of Defence has its own fire service. The Defence Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) protects our military estates and property from fire risk. Together with the RAF fire service, they respond to emergencies, and carry out rescue operations at plane crashes.
But the MoD is in the process of outsourcing this vital service in an attempt to save money. The only bidders left in the running are Capita and Serco.
Why should we care?
1) National strategic assets should be kept in public hands
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is one of the largest landowners in the country
- with nearly 2% of the UK land mass. MOD land is used for national defence and security, training and operations. It includes 4,600 sites and buildings worth more than £100 billion. The Defence Fire Risk Management Organisation, which sits within the MOD, employs 2,200 staff at 78 defence fire stations worldwide. This includes 65 defence fire stations in the UK and 13 overseas
including Germany, Cyprus, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island. Outsourcing would mean bringing private companies into British forces operations overseas.
Whatever you think about the role of the military, it doesn’t make sense to hand over control of this vital service protecting our land to private companies.
2) Outsourcing puts people’s safety at risk
We know that private companies put profits before people again and again. The new contract will involve providing training for military fire fighters. The bidders have been asked to ‘proactively seek and implement efficiencies across the service’. This suggests that corners could be cut to save money - and lives could be in danger as a result. Some sites would have a much worse fire service response, and would rely on the local fire service who are already stretched in rural areas. Night time and weekend fire cover could be removed - anyone working or living (in barracks or ‘Married Quarters’) on the site would be at risk.
Is there MOD land near you? If so, your community could be affected by an overstretched local fire service, forced to step in when the new private service is cut.
3) Capita/Serco have failed us repeatedly
The bidders are unreliable, failing outsourcing companies - Capita and Serco. Capita is in financial trouble, having to raise millions to pay off its debt after the collapse of Carillion. Serco has a terrible reputation for messing up government contracts. Remember when they defrauded the public by bidding for government contracts after spending public money on tagging prisoners - who had already died or been released from prison?
Why would we hand over vital services to these dodgy, profit-hungry companies?
4) MoD have a history of failed privatisations - we don’t want more
This sale is the latest in a long line of privatisations in our defence service. We know that this government is committed to forcing through outsourcing and privatisation as a way to cut budgets. We’ve heard from our friends who work for the DFRS that this sell off could be the first step towards privatising the civilian fire and rescue service as well. Some regional fire and rescue services already have a commercial arm, and the Marine Rescue Service is already run by a private company.
It’s time we stand up and put a stop to this relentless outsourcing.
The Defence Select Committee have written to Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, urging him to rethink. Please join them by doing the same.
Take action now