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Government urged to reverse ‘decade of cuts’ to fire service

The FBU said there are 11,500 fewer firefighters now than there were in 2010.

Union leaders highlighted the rising numbers of wildfires (Danny Lawson/PA)
Union leaders highlighted the rising numbers of wildfires (Danny Lawson/PA)

By Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent

The Government is being urged to reverse a “decade of cuts” to the fire service which union leaders warn have left it in crisis.

The Fire Brigades Union said the number of firefighters has increased by 1%, or 318, this year, meaning there are still nearly 11,500 fewer than in 2010.

The union said there has been a 19% cut in frontline firefighters since the Conservatives took office, while incidents such as wildfires and flooding have increased.

Overall spending on UK fire and rescue services has fallen by 38% since 2005, said the FBU.

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The FBU said that there are more wildfires and flooding incidents to deal with (Steve Parsons/PA)

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This shameless Government is doing nothing to ease the pressure on overstretched and underpaid firefighters, all while making dubious claims of spending elsewhere.

“Fire and rescue services are in crisis after years of brutal cuts and this year’s measly increase in posts is wholly insufficient to plug the gaps.

“We cannot allow firefighters’ life-saving work to go unrecognised.

“The Chancellor must fund firefighter recruitment and end the years of real-term pay cuts for firefighters. Our communities need more firefighters and the Government needs to reflect the work they do in their paycheques.

“If this Government is serious about tackling the climate emergency, it needs to invest in our frontline defences and it is firefighters who are tackling wildfires and rescuing people stranded in flooding.”

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “Our firefighters do an amazing job, but they are fighting emergencies with one hand tied behind their backs.

“The Tories have completely undermined the fire service with thousands of job cuts and by closing fire stations.

“Ministers are recklessly complacent. Wildfires are often huge incidents requiring very large numbers of firefighters to tackle them.

“The UK has had more wildfires in the first half of 2019 than any year on record. As the effects of climate change worsen, we need more firefighters and resources.

“It will be a complete dereliction of duty if ministers don’t make good their own cuts to the fire service.”

PA

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