Firefighters in Dorset and Wiltshire have laid down a marker by telling politicians that they â€œwill not pay for cuts with our jobs, our service and the safety of firefighters and the publicâ€.
The statement comes as the Fire Brigades Union publishes its response to a public consultation considering a merger of the two fire & rescues services.
The consultation, being run separately by the fire authorities in Dorset and Wiltshire, opened in July and has put forward a number of options, foremost a merger of the two services. The plan has been made in response to funding cuts which have left both fire services on the brink of what some officers are describing as â€œinsolvencyâ€.
In response, the FBU in Dorset and Wiltshire have published submissions which outline the strain that cuts are putting on staff and demand â€œlong term, strategic investment in the serviceâ€.
Karen Adams, FBU brigade secretary in Dorset, said: â€œThese are desperate times for Dorset Fire and Rescue Service. Funding cuts are already having a serious impact on our service, with firefighters expected to work in their own time, and on low pay rates, just to keep fire engines on the run and support community safety events. But enough is enough: no matter the outcome of the consultation we are demanding long term, strategic investment in our service. We require, and the public deserve, a properly financed, locally accountable fire and rescue service â€“ no matter which name it bearsâ€.
Brent Thorley, FBU brigade secretary in Wiltshire demanded that politicians listen to the view of professional firefighters, saying: â€œThe only reason that this consultation is taking place is because of massive funding cuts in Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. Although the majority of these cuts have been driven by central government, decisions taken by local politicians have made the situation even worse.
For purely political reasons, and against the advice of professional firefighters, they have implemented a series of council tax freezes which have put emergency cover at risk. Itâ€™s a shocking truth that the purpose of this consultation isn’t about improving emergency cover or community safety â€“ rather itâ€™s about the survival of the fire and rescue service itselfâ€.
Trevor French, FBU regional secretary, said: â€œOur service has suffered unprecedented and dangerous cuts to central funding in the last decade. Nationally, central funding to the fire and rescue service has been cut by more than a fifth during this parliament and further cuts are planned for 2015-16, an unprecedented reduction. These cuts will ultimately cost lives, destroy homes and businesses, drive up insurance premiums and damage the environment.
â€œPoliticians at a local and national level have betrayed firefighters and the fire and rescue service. They have been so focused on driving through funding cuts that they have been blinded to the impact these have on the frontline emergency service. Politically driven cuts have created a financial crisis in our service so dangerous that in a recent TV interview the Wiltshire chief fire officer told a reporter that the brigade was in danger of â€œgoing bustâ€.
Now the FBU is putting a marker down: â€œWe will not pay for political cuts with our jobs, our service and the safety of firefighters and the publicâ€.
The FBU in the south west made two separate submissions to the consultation and they are availableÂ hereÂ andÂ here.
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