Cuts Watch #289: Cuts in the fire service
The FBU have produced a round up of cuts in fire and rescue, provided exclusively to Cuts Watch prior to publication in their next journal. Their survey, based on returns from two-thirds of fire and rescue services, shows that cuts, of varied scale and speed, are taking place across the UK. The worst region at present is Yorkshire and Humberside, where a total of 388 jobs are threatened in the next year alone. Such a cut represents over 7 per cent of personnel employed by the fire services in the region. Another region on the sharp end of job cuts is Wales. With 50 posts going in South Wales and as many as 80 from mid and West Wales, this equates to a cut of over 4 per cent this year. In Greater Manchester, it has been reported that 150 jobs are threatened, which amounts to a 6 per cent cut in jobs this year.
There are around 55,000 frontline firefighters employed in the UK today, with a further 10,000 employed in other non-operational roles. The FBU calculate that if the cuts in Humberside were replicated across the UK, this would mean that 4-5,000 jobs would be threatened in the next year alone. On the other hand if the cuts in Wales were to be replicated, the cut would be around half that figure (but would still constitute a significant reduction). In every case, such cuts would be devastating for firefighters and for the service that they provide.
Other issues stand out from the FBU survey. Where fire and rescue services are giving money figures, the cuts are in millions of pounds, not thousands. It seems that retained firefighters are particularly under threat – especially in places like the East Midlands. But so far it is only in Warwickshire that fire stations have been earmarked for closure – probably because this is very unpopular with the public. However many services are planning to implement measures including taking pumps off the run at certain times of the day, reducing crewing from five to four and chipping away at shift systems to squeeze the maximum out of firefighters.
Update: The FBU have also undertaken some quick analysis of the CSR’s impacts for the fire service. The cut will be 25 per cent over four years. They are slightly back loaded towards the end of the period and include further ‘modernisation’. Departmental business plans (i.e. with a breakdown for individual fire and rescue services) expected in a month.
*Many thanks to Paul Hampton at the FBU for sharing these survey findings.