After a decade of cuts firefighters desperately need a pay rise. They join front line staff in our health service, schools and local authorities who have seen their wages fall in real terms every year since 2010. To add insult to injury the Tory government is pushing through further fire service funding cuts this year Writes Kevin Vickers.
Hidden in the Local Government Finance Settlement, barely scrutinised by Parliament, funding from central government will fall by £155 million in 2019/2020 - a 15% cut from 2016/17.
This follows an all-too-familiar pattern of reductions in funding, firefighters and equipment - as well as “mergers” of fire authorities. Between 2010 and 2015 funding was slashed by 30%.
In some areas the creation of “blue light hubs” (where emergency services workers share infrastructure and resources) has seen the closure of fire stations. Close co-operation between emergency services workers is already part of their daily life. However, in some instances, relocation of fire appliances and staff to more remote locations, with less favourable access, can add vital minutes to response times. This could mean the difference between life and death or the difference between businesses being devastated by fire, or not.
Dangerous delay put public safety at risk. Cuts have also resulted in a reduction in the number of firefighters aboard an appliance. Four firefighters cannot carry out the full range of firefighting and rescue tactics in a safe and controlled way that five can. In some instances fewer personnel are available, further limiting operational capabilities.
Last year saw firefighters have seen an increase in call outs to fires and non-fire incidents; rescuing rescued than 45,000 people; 4% more than the year before.
The constant erosion of funding has seen the Fire Brigades Union warn that continued cuts could damage efforts to protect the public.
One year and 9 months on from the horror and tragedy of Grenfell Tower how can the government justify this?