One in ten firefighter jobs could go because of savage budget cuts the Fire Brigades Union is warning. New research by the union, based on Freedom of Information Act questions, confirms that over 1,000 jobs were lost in the first round of cuts to April 2011.
The union says ever increasing cuts to central Government grants to fire authorities up to 2014 will lead to the loss of 6,000 firefighters and possibly a great deal more. The hardest hit areas in the first round of cuts include Scotland, the South West, Yorkshire and West Midlands
Fewer firefighters always mean it takes longer to get to a fire or other emergency in response to a 999 call. Longer response times increase risk to life and more property damage because of fires and a poorer response to other major incidents.
The FBU warns the fire service will reach breaking point dealing with widespread incidents such as floods and wildfires. The number and size of wildfires often need hundreds of fire crews and appliances working around the clock for days and even weeks to control and douse fires.
The union point to recent widespread wildfires and to mass wildfires in 2003 and 2006. There have also been major flooding and extreme winter weather conditions lasting for weeks and even months which have also stretched fire crews.
Matt Wrack, FBU General secretary said:
â€œFewer fire crews means it will take longer for the fire engine to arrive in response to a 999 call. There will be ever increasing risk to life, homes, businesses and our cultural and natural heritage as the cuts bite harder year after year.
â€œWeâ€™ve faced mass wildfires, terrible floods and freezing winter weather which stretched fire crews for weeks. How does the Government expect us to cope with big labour intensive incidents with far fewer frontline fire crews?
â€œClaims that fire services can fall back on each other and pool resources donâ€™t stand up when the cuts are widespread. The overall pool of resources is being drained away and it will get worse year after year.
“Cameron’s promise not to cut frontline services has proved worthless. You donâ€™t get much more frontline than a 999 response and weâ€™re being cut to pieces.
â€œWeâ€™re over-stretched now, and frontline crews are making it clear weâ€™ll be at breaking point when the cuts really bite over the next two years. The simple fact is that cuts cost lives.â€
Central Government grants to fire and rescue service budgets are being slashed by 25% in the next four years. The budget cuts are staged to get worse year on year â€“ so called â€˜back-loadingâ€™.
The job cuts â€“ mostly losses through not replacing those who leave â€“ cover wholetime, retained and firefighters in control. The heaviest losses are to wholetime firefighters.
Media contact FBU media office 0208 541 1765 or mobile 07736 818100.