FBU leadership sells head office – nice of them to tell us!

'For Sale' sign outside FBU head office in Kingston-Upon-Thames

NEWS REACHES THIS blog that the leadership of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has decided to sell the union’s head office in Kingston-Upon-Thames – where it has been located for almost 40 years – and to purchase a new property in central London.

The decision, which is likely to carry significant financial and operational implications for the union, appears to have been taken by the executive council (EC) without any noticeable prior consultation with members. Neither does there seem to have been any circular reporting details of the decision – meaning that the relocation is likely to come as a surprise to many members and officials.

Moreover, it seems that the leadership had no intention of encouraging any sort of debate on the issue at the union’s annual conference – its supreme governing body – which meets in Blackpool this week. The relocation is completely absent from the conference agenda. And there was only the most fleeting mention of it in the EC’s published annual report (it was buried on page 91 – blink and you’d have missed it).

This failing is even more inexcusable given that any decision to move head office requires annual conference to agree a change to the union’s rule book (rule A1(2) stipulates that head office will be located at the current site).

The sale of the existing head office, which has been home to the union since 1985, is apparently being managed by Savills estate agents. According to Savills’ website, the property is currently under offer, having entered the market at a guide price of £3m.

Members may well ask why a hugely-consequential decision of this nature has not been subjected to proper debate and scrutiny by anyone outside of the EC. Did no-one among the leadership think it was appropriate to put a decision of such magnitude before annual conference for discussion, or even to report it to the membership in a circular? Did they just forget?

If there are sound business reasons for the relocation – and there may well be – then let’s hear and debate them. After all, we are talking about a move that may ultimately result in a considerable outlay for the union – perhaps several million pounds. This is members’ money, of course. There are also potentially significant implications for the union’s existing workforce, many of whom have been employed at head office for several years. 

This blog has regularly accused the current leadership of acting as though the union were its own personal property. Episodes like this show that that accusation is entirely justified.