Fire and Rescue Service diversity report slams lack of progress

The lack of diversity in the Fire and Rescue Service has come under renewed scrutiny after new figures showed the number of women and ethnic minority employees had not improved significantly.

Statistics published last week revealed that just 3.2% of workers in the service were black or minority ethnic (BME) – a rise of less than 1% since 2003. And women make up just 3.1% of an operational workforce dominated by white men.

The figures also showed that women and BME staff are grossly under-represented at senior level. In 2006-07, of the top 5% of earners, only 7.2% were women and just 2.4% were of BME origin.

The figures follow a critical report by the Audit Commission earlier this year. The watchdog found the lack of a diverse workforce significantly reduced the service’s ability to educate different communities about the risks of fire.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “It’s clear that the service needs to make much greater efforts to attract, appoint and promote women and members of ethnic minorities, and we are working to ensure that it does.”

Fire minister Parmjit Dhanda agreed more needed to be done to boost equality and diversity in the service.

“Representation is still very low compared to representation in the working population,” he said.

The government plans to launch an equality and diversity strategy in co-operation with the service later this month to tackle the problem, Dhanda said.

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