Chief Fire Officers Association

November 08, 2011 4:46 PM

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) - according to its website - is the professional voice of the UK fire and rescue service. Reading that, you would think it was a professional organisation for senior fire officers, paid for by them. You would be wrong. This is an organisation paid for by us to lobby on behalf of senior fire officers, and it is an organisation that has grown over the years, once again thanks to our money.

When looking at spending above £500 on Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service's (CFRS) website, I noticed to payments to the CFOA of £6175 in April this year. I sent a freedom of information request to find out why. It turned out that one of those payments was made in error, however Cambridgeshire taxpayers pay for a corporate membership of the CFOA of £6175 a year. But that's not all. CFRS also pay the personal subscriptions for the senior management team - eight subscriptions in total. As these subscriptions are below £500, they are not published, and I do not know what the total figure is. What I can say is the figure paid by CFRS to the CFOA is higher than the published £6175.

That example gives you a snapshot of the national picture. I don't have the time to check the spending of all fire and rescue services in the country, but I can't imagine the figures quoted will be much different from Cambridgeshire.

Considering taxpayers fund the CFOA, finding out how it spends its money is not easy. The general public can access parts of the website, but much of it is for members only. What we do know is the CFOA is a registered charity that also has created other companies such as CFOA National Resilience Ltd and CFOA Publications Ltd. We also know it intends to expand. If you take a look at Des Prichard's blog (the Chief Fire Officer of East Sussex) he says he was part of an interview panel for a commercial business and marketing position with the Chief Fire Officers Association.

One of our supporters sent a freedom of information request to East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service asking how much time off from his Chief Fire Officer (CFO) duties he received to carry out work as the CFOA's Director of People and Organisational Development, but the response was the service didn't keep a record. Mr Prichard is one of many serving chief fire officers who spend time away from the jobs we pay them for, to act on behalf of the CFOA.

The Presidential Team is made up of the following: Lee Howell, CFO, Devon and Somerset, is the president. The Vice President is Vij Randeniya, CFO, West Midlands, and the Vice President Elect is Paul Fuller, CFO, Bedfordshire and Luton.

This is another example of an organisation funded by taxpayers that's job is to lobby ministers, but not only are we paying for that, we are also paying to fund business and commercial enterprises to give it more money to lobby and campaign on behalf of those at the top of the fire service. Instead of heading operations in their own areas, many CFOs are leaving those duties behind to work for the CFOA completely at our expense. If the example of Cambridgeshire is the norm throughout they country, they don't even have to pay their own subscriptions.

It is in everyone's interests that we have a first class fire and rescue service throughout the country, and there will be times when senior fire officers will be required to meet ministers to discuss possible changes in legislation. This is to be expected. Questions must be raised though as to why taxpayers have to fund  an organisation like the CFOA, not only directly, but also indirectly with time off from their normal duties.

CFOA FoI Response:

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) - according to its website - is the professional voice of the UK fire and rescue service. Reading that, you would think it was a professional organisation for senior fire officers, paid for by them. You would be wrong. This is an organisation paid for by us to lobby on behalf of senior fire officers, and it is an organisation that has grown over the years, once again thanks to our money.

When looking at spending above £500 on Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service's (CFRS) website, I noticed to payments to the CFOA of £6175 in April this year. I sent a freedom of information request to find out why. It turned out that one of those payments was made in error, however Cambridgeshire taxpayers pay for a corporate membership of the CFOA of £6175 a year. But that's not all. CFRS also pay the personal subscriptions for the senior management team - eight subscriptions in total. As these subscriptions are below £500, they are not published, and I do not know what the total figure is. What I can say is the figure paid by CFRS to the CFOA is higher than the published £6175.

That example gives you a snapshot of the national picture. I don't have the time to check the spending of all fire and rescue services in the country, but I can't imagine the figures quoted will be much different from Cambridgeshire.

Considering taxpayers fund the CFOA, finding out how it spends its money is not easy. The general public can access parts of the website, but much of it is for members only. What we do know is the CFOA is a registered charity that also has created other companies such as CFOA National Resilience Ltd and CFOA Publications Ltd. We also know it intends to expand. If you take a look at Des Prichard's blog (the Chief Fire Officer of East Sussex) he says he was part of an interview panel for a commercial business and marketing position with the Chief Fire Officers Association.

One of our supporters sent a freedom of information request to East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service asking how much time off from his Chief Fire Officer (CFO) duties he received to carry out work as the CFOA's Director of People and Organisational Development, but the response was the service didn't keep a record. Mr Prichard is one of many serving chief fire officers who spend time away from the jobs we pay them for, to act on behalf of the CFOA.

The Presidential Team is made up of the following: Lee Howell, CFO, Devon and Somerset, is the president. The Vice President is Vij Randeniya, CFO, West Midlands, and the Vice President Elect is Paul Fuller, CFO, Bedfordshire and Luton.

This is another example of an organisation funded by taxpayers that's job is to lobby ministers, but not only are we paying for that, we are also paying to fund business and commercial enterprises to give it more money to lobby and campaign on behalf of those at the top of the fire service. Instead of heading operations in their own areas, many CFOs are leaving those duties behind to work for the CFOA completely at our expense. If the example of Cambridgeshire is the norm throughout they country, they don't even have to pay their own subscriptions.

It is in everyone's interests that we have a first class fire and rescue service throughout the country, and there will be times when senior fire officers will be required to meet ministers to discuss possible changes in legislation. This is to be expected. Questions must be raised though as to why taxpayers have to fund  an organisation like the CFOA, not only directly, but also indirectly with time off from their normal duties.

CFOA FoI Response:

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