Last November I wrote about the Chief Fire Officers' Association (CFOA). The name suggests this is an organisation paid for by those at the top of the fire service. As I pointed out, this is far from the truth. It is taxpayers that prop-up the CFOA as it gets subscriptions from fire authorities across the country. Those same fire authorities even pay for the individual subscriptions of well paid senior fire officers.
I now have a list of what has been paid to the CFOA for the last three financial years by fire authorities across the country. I must stress this is a conservative figure as two authorities - Mid & West Wales and West Sussex - failed to respond to a freedom of information request. The figures also do not contain other costs, such as staff being diverted away from their duties to organise CFOA events. In total, taxpayers contributed £1,730,589.
Topping the list is my own Fire Authority, Humberside. It paid CFOA at total of £61,856.87. Regular readers of this website may remember this was the same authority who managed to waste tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money in increased pension pay-outs to senior officers it gave temporary promotions to.
In the Yorkshire Post this morning, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) confirmed it paid the membership fees of around seven senior officers. You would think they would know the exact figure, but apparently not. It also insisted its membership of the CFOA was good value for taxpayers' money, but not all Fire Authorities agree. London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority pulled out of the CFOA after it faced a 20% hike in membership fees. Commenting on the decision, London Fire Brigade commissioner, Ron Dobson, said:
At a time when public sector organisations are being challenged to make huge savings across the board, we believe this increase shows a lack of empathy with the financial situation facing all the fire and rescue services that CFOA is there to support.
“In the current economic climate we believe they should be leading the way, rather than simply passing on the cost of savings that we are all being asked to make.
We pay precepts to fire authorities so we are protected if the worst comes to the worst. We expect our money to spent wisely. We certainly do not hand over our hard earned cash for it to be spent on what is in effect a lobbying organisation for senior fire officers.