Firefighter job losses warning
MORE than 60 firefighters in Warwickshire are facing redundancy in the New Year because of budget cuts by the county council. As a result, people’s lives could be put at risk.
This is the view of the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU), which is voicing deep concerns that a service “already underfunded by £2.5 million” is now bracing itself for a further £2.7 million being slashed from its budget.
It says Warwickshire County Council has identified a £67 million budget shortfall and is looking at which council services to cut in order to save money.
The issue is being discussed at a meeting of the county council’s ruling cabinet on Thursday (8th December).
Pete Goulden, secretary of the FBU in the West Midlands, said: “Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service has suffered seven years of brutal cuts that have already compromised the service we deliver to the public.
“If councillors do vote to cut back the service, we will not be able to keep the public safe. Further cuts will decimate the service.
“We fear deeply for the people we won’t be able to save because of a lack of resources, and we fear for our firefighters who will have to deal with dangerous situations with fewer colleagues.
Mr Goulden added: “It is a gut-wrenching kick in the teeth for anyone who cares about the life-saving emergency service. There are going to be a lot of distressed, anxious firefighters who face this festive season with a lot of uncertainty.”
The FBU pointed out that a report published earlier this year by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said the appropriate annual funding for Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service was £24.8 million.
If the cuts were voted through it would mean the county council would fund just £19.4 million. In total, the service could face a funding shortfall of £5.2 million.
The union warned that if the cuts are given the go-ahead, 62 firefighters would face redundancy in the |New Year, five fire engines would be withdrawn from duty and the fire service could even be forced to merge with one of its neighbouring services.
The FBU said Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service was “massively underfunded” compared to other services. Although the counties of Warwickshire and Shropshire shared similar demographics, there was a huge gulf between the amounts each county council spent on fire services. Warwickshire would spend just £22.12 per person on fire services if these cuts went through, compared to Shropshire’s £43.
The union said Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service had faced a huge swathe of budget cuts since 2010. A new work schedule was introduced with the result that 50 per cent fewer firefighters were now on shift at any one time.
The target attendance time of 15 minutes before the vital second fire engine reached an emergency is only met 68 per cent of the time, rather than the target of 75 per cent. One engine with one crew wasn’t adequate to begin lifesaving operations at serious rescue incidents.
Among proposals being considered by the cabinet is a review of the number, location and resourcing of fire stations and fire engines in the three-year period up to 2020.
A final decision on the county’s budget is expected in early February 2017.