Nottinghamshire chief fire officer warns staff could leave profession over ‘cost of living crisis’

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Nottinghamshire’s chief fire officer has raised alarm bells over the number of staff leaving the county fire service – and said public sector pay becoming ‘increasingly uncompetitive’ is one of the reasons.

Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin, of Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, presented his findings in a report to the human resources committee.

He said overall numbers have ‘slightly reduced’ from 861 to 842 employees in post during 2021-22.

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There were 65 appointments to substantive or fixed-term roles and 108 leavers during the period, accounting for a turnover of 12.7 per cent.

Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin, of Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service.Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin, of Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service.
Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin, of Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service.

Forty-three support employees left the service during 2021-22, which accounts for 24.5 per cent of the support workforce.

He said: “The number of leavers during 2021-22 was more than predicted and reflects a general increase in turnover across the national workforce in the post-Covid period.

“While this trend was predicted in the last workforce plan, the number of support staff who have left, 24.5 per cent, was double the predicted number.

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“While increased movement in the labour market is a national trend, the increase may also relate to the move to the Joint Headquarters and to increases in the cost of living, which have seen public sector pay become increasingly uncompetitive.

“This increase in turnover has been identified on the risk register and will be kept under review.”

He said the outcome from the firefighter recruitment campaign in 2020 saw 27 apprentice firefighters in employment during 2021.

Preparations for recruitment during 2022 are under way and will start in the summer, for a course start date in April 2023.

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This will ensure numbers are ‘maintained as operational employees retire or leave the service’.

Mr Parkin said: “This is a significant and unprecedented level of turnover and is recognised as a risk to the authority in terms of resources and loss of skills and knowledge.

“A review into recruitment and retention will be undertaken during 2022 with the aim of addressing any issues, establishing the service as an employer of choice and reducing staff turnover.”

The service is also under financial pressure. It says while it has set a balanced budget for 2021/22, this has required £2 million of temporary savings to be made and still requires £153,000 to be funded from reserves.

The service said: “The financial position remains at best uncertain.”

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