A government letter has caused chaos among insurers and risk managers, outlining proposals that will leave local fire authorities (LFAs) open to uninsured legal liability during the firefighter strike ...
A government letter has caused chaos among insurers and risk managers, outlining proposals that will leave local fire authorities (LFAs) open to uninsured legal liability during the firefighter strikes.
The letter, from minister for local government Nick Raynsford, said LFAs must "accept or insure against the risk that they may be held liable for incidents at the fire ground".
In return the government will meet the cost of the military and police support necessary to ensure basic fire cover during the strikes.
But the letter's meaning has caused considerable confusion.
The Association of Local Authority Risk Managers (Alarm), which advises LFAs, argues the deal would make LFAs liable for the actions of military personnel drafted in to provide relief fire cover.
Alarm is concerned that LFAs would not be able to obtain cover for the additional risks.
Alarm council member Sharon Roots said: "It is wrong for LFAs to accept responsibility. They wouldn't have control over what the army does. There would also be no insurance cover. It is very high risk and insurers won't insure something over which they have no control."
A spokesman for The St Paul, which insures a number of fire authorities, confirmed that LFAs' insurance cover would not be extended to provide indemnity for negligent acts of army personnel.
But Alarm's views are not shared by Local Government Association (LGA), which represents LFAs, or by LFA insurer Zurich Municipal.
LGA chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham said: "[Alarm's argument] would not be legally possible given the contractual relationships in place."
In his view, the principal concern was the proposal's "net cost" to the fire authority.
A Zurich Municipal spokesman said: "The government doesn't seem to be asking LFAs to carry all liability coming from a fire, only if a senior fire officer is responsible at the fire."
The spokesman said that a wider interpretation as suggested by Alarm was "ridiculous".
A spokesman for Nick Raynsford confirmed Zurich Muncipal's interpretation of the letter.