Government sneaks through 15% cut to fire and rescue service whilst Brexit battle rages on
TruePublica Editor. The political fallout from Theresa May’s disastrous leadership of her party, cabinet and parliament is one thing the country has been distracted by, part of the consequence is what we don’t hear that really should be newsworthy. In a desperate attempt to win people over Theresa May went as far as to promise the NHS billions in funding that was in reality withheld anyway. Then, last November at the Conservative party conference in another cynical attempt to win at least some support, she stated that austerity would come to an end. This was simply another hypocritical attempt to bribe the nation, only this time it was stained with little more than pure mendacity.
Brexit is great if bad news needs to be buried. Here is just one of those stories that will fire up your anger.
The Westminster government will cut fire and rescue service funding in England by 15% over the next year, analysis from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has found, despite claiming that “austerity is over”. Firefighters warn that the government is refusing to learn the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire, nearly two years on from the tragedy.
The cuts are packaged up in the annual Local Government Finance Settlement, receiving virtually no scrutiny from Parliament, prompting accusations that the government are trying to “sneak through” further austerity measures unnoticed. The latest settlement was announced by James Brokenshire, secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on 29 January.
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Analysis of the settlement reveals:
Central government funding for the fire and rescue service will fall by £155 million in 2019/2020, representing a 15% cut from 2016/17 to 2019/20
Between 2010 and 2015 funding was cut by 30%
In ten years, funding to the fire service will have been all but sliced in half
As government devolves power and merges fire authorities at a local level, tracking cuts to fire and rescue services is becoming increasingly difficult, requiring more independent analysis. Last year, the FBU warned that further cuts of this level would damage efforts to protect the public from another Grenfell-style event.
There is growing pressure on fire and rescue services across the UK. Last year saw a 3% increase in fires and a 1% increase in overall incidents attended by firefighters. Firefighters rescued over 45,000 people last year, 4% more than the year before. That includes 42,000 rescues from non-fire incidents, including flooding, hazardous chemical spillages, road traffic collisions, and lift rescues. There has been a 27% increase in fatalities to 334, including the 72 lives lost at Grenfell Tower.
As we approach the second anniversary of Grenfell, MPs will debate funding for emergency services in Westminster Hall. They must send a clear message to the Tory government: cuts to the fire and rescue service have gone too far.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:
“It is appalling that the government is trying to sneak through cuts to fire and rescue services with virtually no scrutiny. They are ramping up their austerity measures despite claiming that austerity is over.
“Nearly two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, this Tory government is still showing a complete disregard for public safety. A properly funded fire and rescue service is essential to protect our communities from fire and a wide range of other threats. These cuts are a danger to firefighters and a danger to the public.”
In addition to this story, the Fire Brigades Union have voiced their anger on additional cuts that is now having severe consequences not just to them as a service but to the safety of the wider public. This is an extract from their own website:
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has branded proposed further cuts to Surrey fire and rescue service as “incomprehensible”, just months after a government inspection voiced “serious concerns” about the county’s fire and rescue service.
Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has experienced brutal cuts, with 131 firefighter positions slashed between 2010 and 2018 – a 17% reduction in the workforce. The proposed cuts would see a further 70 firefighter posts axed in the area, cutting numbers by 22% since 2010.
This follows a December 2018 report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) voicing “serious concerns” about the service’s effectiveness and efficiency in keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks.
(You can read the whole story HERE)