White paper response: Employers side self-led review 2024

Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services National Joint Council (NJC). A reflective, self-led review by the National Employers.

Introduction and background

The National Employers is the employers’ side of the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services (NJC). It is comprised of 14 members representing fire and rescue services across the UK. Members are appointed by the Local Government Association, the Board of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Welsh Local Government Association and the Board of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue service.

There have been a number of comments and criticisms made of the NJC, both in the White Paper of 2021, and also in some His Majesty’s Inspectorate Fire and Rescue Services (HMIFRS) reports. This review provides an opportunity for the national employers to reflect on these comments, consider any criticisms raised and to reflect on changes and recommendations that may improve the efficiency and delivery for the Fire and Rescue Service, and of the NJC. We intend to look at consultation processes, our communications strategy, and to discuss with stakeholders from across the NJC and beyond –what currently works well and what improvements can be identified.

Recommendations around a review of collective bargaining machinery first appeared in State of Fire & Rescue: The Annual Assessment of Fire and Rescue Services in England 2019.

The provision for an independent review of the collective bargaining process appeared more recently in the Reforming our Fire Service White Paper, issued May 2022. 

Review themes

In responding to these external commentaries, and with an underlining commitment to self-improvement and self-reflection, the national employers suggest this review is based around the following themes:

  • Consultation and input – how does engagement currently operate, are NJC decision makers hearing all the views they need, are there improved mechanisms that can improve the collection of views and facilitate their conclusions.
  • Transparency – how are these considerations captured, explained and justified, is there more that should be done in this space. How does it compare to other models of pay decision making?
  • Collective bargaining models – can we learn from other models of national or local bargaining? What are the costs and experiences and what can we learn from alternative models of industrial relations?

A key thread running through the review should also seek to improve the shared understanding of the purpose, approach and accountability of the NJC.

Negative external commentary

  • 'fire and rescue professionals should be supported by a professional pay negotiation process. The current National Joint Council has strayed beyond its original scope and into negotiation of operational response, which should be a matter for operational leaders.'
  • Tom Windsor recommendation to improve 'the mechanism for establishing pay and conditions.'
  • The national negotiation mechanism established by the National Joint Council has been recognised by inspectors and others as a barrier to a rapid and flexible response. 
  • 'The process for determining pay should be open to scrutiny, so that all concerned can understand the decisions that are made…' independent review would consider whether the current pay negotiation process is dynamic enough to respond to changing priorities. It could consider evidence from other employment models and sectors.'


In exploring these views and understanding better how the NJC works, whether criticisms are valid and where there might be ideas for improvement, the National Employers would welcome feedback from:

  • National Employer members, including Police and Fire Commissioners
  • All Trade Unions in the Fire and Rescue Service (FBU, FOA, FRSA)
  • Other organised (non-trade union) groups such as Women in the Fire Service, Asian Fire Fighters Association etc.
  • NFCC
  • Scottish Government
  • Welsh Government
  • Home Office
  • HMICFRS, HMFSI & Chief Inspector for Wales
  • Scottish FRS Board
  • Northern Ireland FRS Board.

Process and information gathering techniques

  • Desk based research.
  • Focus groups.
  • Direct consultation.
  • Surveys.

Potential timetable

LGA to begin procurement process - ASAP

Initial research and planning to begin - April/May 2024

Interviews/focus groups - May/June/July 2024

Writing stage - August 2024

Final report agreed by national employers - Autumn 2024

The LGA Workforce team will call for expressions of interest in this project via the established LGA procurement process, to appoint a researcher to work with and on the behalf of the national employers in delivery of this project. We would expect the individual to:

  • have a good understanding of industrial relations
  • be proficient in the HR/ER/Employment Law world of work
  • have relevant experience in research and the production of reports and presenting/articulating complex information.

Further information