There has been a bit of commotion in recent days - and a
predictable call to the Manchester Evening News by a 'dissatisfied
member of staff' - about the issue of white shirts issued to watch
managers and crew managers.
Amazing how, with so many things going on that are very serious
and big issues, folks can get so agitated about the colour of a
shirt. We are investing millions in training facilities, we
are facing up to massive questions arising from the Efficiency
review, we await the Chancellors spending review in just a few
weeks' time to get a sense of the magnitude of the cuts we will
face in future years, and so on. So in the grand scheme of
things shirt colour doesn't seem something to get too worked up
about - but there you go, people do.
So, I thought it helpful to push out some information/facts.
In 2009, a trial of new white duty rig shirts for officers
commenced. In 2010, following suggestions to the Equipment
Monitoring Group, this was extended to include trousers. The 2009
trial involved eight officers of Group Manager and Station Manager
rank in varying roles taking part. Comparative feedback was
gathered on whether the uniform was fit for purpose, robust, easy
to use, store, maintain and compatible with other equipment. That
feedback showed the trial shirt was a success.
Initially, it was envisaged that the white shirts would be worn
by station manager and above. The Corporate Leadership Team (CLT)
and the Leadership Team (LT), however, were also asked to consider
a number of recommendations regarding the provision of new duty rig
uniform to operational managers. The intention here was to
reflect the changing role of operational managers and the Service -
including a greater community role, with stations more open to the
public - and make them more easily identifiable to both colleagues
and also the public. The public like to be able to easily
identify "who's in charge" for a whole host of reasons. Therefore,
the decision was made to issue white shirts to crew manager and
Following feedback from operational crews via a survey monkey
regarding operational crews wearing white it was decided that the
scale of issue would be five shirts to accommodate one for each day
of the tour with one spare.
Additionally, the white shirt has been worn by our colleagues in
the other North West fire and rescue services and throughout the
country for a number of years and feedback to us from North West
Technical West Officers meetings has always been very positive. I
guess we should remember that the shirts and trousers are a colour
change only and the cloth of the garment is the same as the
The shirts are being brought in through a staged approach, and
the unused blue shirts that are returned to stores will be reused
and issued to firefighters when they next need them. And the
new white ones in fact are more cost effective in the long term.
To supply all officers with their allocation of the new rig
costs £12,668 compared with £13,994 for the same amount of blue rig
- so we're saving more than £1,300 pa across uniform issued to
I guess that's it really.
There is one aspect for crew managers who have agreed with the
approach but, understandably, have also said that sometimes
they are in charge and sometimes they are a crew members and there
is a practical issue with this. CLT agreed just the other day
that this was fair enough, so we will amend the issue to crew
managers to reflect the two aspects of their role - give them some
blue shirts as well (not a great cost at all) - and allow them to
make their own mind up about which shirt to wear.
In many ways, as I say, given the size of the challenges we face
I do struggle to see the same significance here as some folks
appear to. But as this stuff can so easily be spun to look
like senior managers thinking up new ways to waste money it does
need to be dealt with honestly and in an upfront way.