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Union raises concern over firefighter cuts

03 January 2019

FIREFIGHTERS ARE expected to do more with less, putting public safety at risk, warns Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

In response to a question from shadow fire minister Karen Lee, the Minister (Nick Hurd) stated that attendance at fire incidents is decreasing, yet Home Office figures reveal that fire incidents in England increased by 3% in the last year to just under 170,000 - the highest level since 2013-14.

Non-fire incidents, such as flooding, rescues and road traffic collisions, have seen the largest increase, with firefighters responding to over 170,000 incidents in England – an 18% increase since 2010-11. Fire fatalities also increased in 2017-18, the worst year for fire deaths since 2010-11, only in part because of the Grenfell tragedy.

Since 2010-11, over 9,000 fire and rescue service jobs in England have been lost – a 20% cut. The number of whole-time firefighters has fallen by just under 6,500 – a 22% drop – and the number of fire control room staff, who play a vital role keeping communities safe, has seen a 433 reduction in posts.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “It is true that firefighting is no longer about just fighting fires, it is about much more. These figures reveal the immense value of the work of firefighters, and also the scale of the challenge they face with increased cuts to their numbers.

“The government is choosing to ignore its own figures, preferring instead to bury their heads in the sand. The need for firefighters in all their roles is increasing, and yet year on year we are seeing appalling cuts to the service. Fire and rescue services in England are expected to do more with less, putting public safety at risk. It is only down to the dedication of fire and rescue staff that the service is performing as efficiently as it is. Firefighters have been ensuring the service delivers, but it is at breaking point. Some of the resulting weaknesses have been highlighted last week by the stark reduction in vital fire safety inspections undertaken. Public safety is being put at risk.”

You can read the FBU's briefing, which covers statistics in England for fire incidents, non-fire incidents, rescues (2016-17 - this year's figures will be available in the New Year), fatalities from fire incidents, firefighters headcount, response times (2016-17).