Firefighter jobs continue to be cut, stoking safety fears

By agency reporter
October 20, 2018

The government continues to cut firefighter jobs in England, despite the service dealing with more incidents, more fires, and more fire deaths, says the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). Since 2009, the number of firefighters has decreased by 23 per cent.

 As of 31 March 2018, there were 32,340 firefighters (full time equivalent), with 421 firefighter jobs having been lost over the past year – a one per cent decrease – which continues the downward trend of firefighters on the front line.

 The biggest cuts of all have been in emergency fire controls, which have seen 30 per cent of jobs cut in a decade.

Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU, said: “We are told that austerity is over, but for who? Certainly not the fire service. This Tory government needs to change course and stop the callous cuts, not just in the fire service, but in all areas of public life. It is appalling that, despite fine words about public safety, ministers continue to slash funding to our fire and rescue services. The public has heard recently how essential is the work undertaken by our emergency fire controls. These are life-saving jobs but they require adequate levels of staffing, support and supervision. It is utterly disgusting that they are seen by some as an easy target for making job cuts.

“Our professional, hardworking firefighters – in fire controls and on stations – deserve better and so do the public. Stop cutting and start investing in our fire and rescue service.”

Meanwhile, says the FBU, progress on diversity remains slow or non-existent. There has been some improvement in the number and proportion of women firefighters. According to Home Office figures, there are now 1,980 women firefighters in England (5.7 per cent of the total) an increase from 1,502 in 2008. However, there are 85 fewer firefighters from an ethnic minority group than there were in 2011. This reduction is a direct result of job cuts. The proportion of firefighters from an ethnic minority group has increased but only because a greater proportion of white firefighters have left or retired from the service.

Matt Wrack continued: “On every front, the policies of this government are a disaster for the fire and rescue service. They have overseen the slashing of record numbers of jobs. The service to the public is suffering as a result. There are indeed failings over the diversity of the workforce but it is utter hypocrisy for this government to even mention it when they have overseen a fall in the number of firefighters from ethnic minorities – as a direct result of Tory cuts.

“There is a deep complacency at the heart of government about the fire service and about public safety.”

* Fire Brigades Union https://www.fbu.org.uk/

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