Fire Chiefs’ Warning: Don’t rely on a fire engine near you

firefighters tackling a blaze. pic courtesy: shoutmeloud.com

Don’t tell any potential rioter, arsonist or terrorist, but if the coalition continue with their present cuts policy by the time of the next general election the forces to fight such evils will be  seriously weakened.

This is  the sober conclusion of six of the most senior fire officers in the country who have already had experience in implementing some of the biggest cuts since Nick Clegg and David Cameron came into power. They cover such big cities as Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Bradford, Birmingham and Sheffield. Their phrase for what is about to happen – a further 27 per cent cut –  is ” potentially catastrophic.”

While the police have hogged the headlines the fire chiefs of a quarter of the most urban areas in England ( who strike me need a good public relations officer) have warned Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, that the service will not survive in its present form.

They exclude London where a botched privatisation has seen the capital’s fire service reliant on Lloyds TSB bank and machines serviced by a company snapped up by a baronet, Sir Aubrey Brocklebank, for £2.

The full story of the horrors facing the service can be read in my piece for exaro news ( http://www.exaronews.com) and also in the Independent  at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/chief-fire-officers-warn-of-potentially-catastrophic-impact-of-cuts  and in Tribune magazine this week.

Suffice to say some very serious issues are being raised. Here a few of the quotes :

Steve McGuirk, chief fire officer of Greater Manchester, says: “A further 27 per cent disproportionate cut equates to a reduction of 11 whole-time crewed fire appliances, reducing frontline capacity by 24 per cent. All incidents requiring more than one fire appliance, which includes all domestic fires, commercial fires, secondary moorland/wild fires and other specialist incidents would have a slower effective response.”

Jamie Courtney, chief fire officer of South Yorkshire, says: “The extreme option of closing seven community fire stations would be necessary to absorb a further 27 per cent cut from the government grant. There would be an increase in deaths and injuries due to longer attendance times.”

His area incidentally include’s Nick Clegg’s Sheffield constituency.

West Yorkshire’s chief fire officer, Simon Pilling, said: “If the authority were to be faced with savings as great as 27 per cent, this could only be achieved through the ‘ad hoc’ and immediate closure of fire stations and the removal of appliances.”

Now this may sound alarmist but with a government committed to a 27 per cent cut over two years, this is not something that can be ignored and needs to be reversed.

Manchester was after all the scene of some of the worst riots just one year ago – and people are not going to thank the government if they is not enough manpower or machines to contain the  damage. Terrorism is also not unknown in Manchester either.

So far Eric Pickles has been pretty complacent. His spokesman saying :“Fire services can make sensible savings without impacting on the quality and breadth of services offered to communities. Such savings can include more flexible staffing arrangements, better sickness management, sharing back-office services, improved procurement and sharing chief fire officers and other senior staff.”

Yet if they read the submission officials would realise that all of this has already been done. For those wanting to see all the facts. the document is available from  Merseyside Fire here (http://bit.ly/Uy2Jzp) The chiefs are arguing about what they will have to cut next if the government  continues with its misguided cuts at this level.

Let’s hope that we don’t have endure another disaster before those in power  are convinced that some of these cuts are mad. Nobody wants to be left waiting to die in a burning building or in a motorway smash while under resourced services try to in vain to rescue them.