I am the Essex Fire Authority Lead Member for Health & Safety, a role I have had for two years. I am the sole councillor invited to attend the Health, Safety and Welfare Strategy Group Meetings.
The' perk' that is gym membership is about to be taxed, and this presents an interesting conundrum. Perhaps perplexing, or worrying, rather than interesting.
For fire fighters, as for a number of other occupations, being fit is a necessity for the job. This is not a nice to have - often fitness governs whether you be allowed to do the job, irrespective of whether you want to or consider that you can.
Where it is not possible to site keep fit equipment at a fire station then an arrangement is made where the fire fighters can use a local gymnasium and the cost is met (to some extent) by the Fire and Rescue Service. If this perk is now to be penalized then this presents a disturbing issue for both the fire fighter and those they seek to protect. Someone making themselves the best they can be for the job they perform strikes me as something we should encourage. The alternative is a prospect of less than able workers.
If the job requires that you be fit (and remember that this is often tested) then this 'perk' should not be penalized, especially as it comes down to location. If you are lucky enough to be stationed where there is keep fit equipment then there is no issue, if not then it is akin to a double-whammy. I remain to be convinced that this is fair.
I did ask at this week's meeting whether the cuts have made the job more dangerous .This has to be monitored. We will have to check the injuries received on the job, and that the frequency does not rise as austerity bites ever deeper.
Three out of 13 of the senior management team at the Essex County Fire & Rescue Service are women. The overall headcount shows that 14% are female, which makes the percentage in senior management (23%) look quite good. I cannot say with certainty whether the authority is heading towards gender parity, but if it is it certainly feels like a crawl rather than a sprint to this observer.