Bucks and Milton Keynes Fire Service respond to emergencies a lot quicker than 10 years ago

This is despite 19% drop in the number of full-time firefighters since 2011 and slowing of national response times

By Joanna Morris
Monday, 21st February 2022, 5:08 pm

Fire crews in Buckingamshire are responding to emergencies faster than a decade ago, despite a slowing in national response times, figures show.

The Fire Brigades Union say "huge levels of cuts" to services across England have contributed to fire services taking longer to reach serious incidents.

But Home Office data shows that the Bucks and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Service responded to primary fires – the most serious kind – in an average of nine minutes 21 seconds during the year to September 2021.

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Response times have improved despite fire brigade's overall staffing levels dropping 20% from 348 in September 2011 to 277 in 2021

Including one minute seven seconds for call handling and six minutes 44 seconds drive-time, that is faster than in the 12 months to September 2020, when the average response time was nine minutes 29 seconds.

The figures show that the response time was quicker than it was in 2011, when crews attended primary incidents in around nine minutes 56 seconds.

However, the service responded to fewer call-outs to primary fires last year, the number of which fell from 1,199 in 2011 to 780 in the year to last September.

The Fire Brigades Union say there has been a long-term slowing of response times nationally due to decades of funding cuts resulting in fewer firefighters, fire engines and stations.

Andy Dark, assistant general secretary of the FBU, said: "It is no surprise that response times are increasing – central government cuts are entirely to blame for this reduction in services and our communities deserve better.

"The Government is playing roulette with our lives and our properties.

"We are being left for longer as our houses burn."

Separate figures show that since 2011, the number of full-time equivalent firefighters employed by the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Service dropped from 199 to 161 last year – a 19% fall.

And the brigade's overall staffing levels were down 20% from 348 in September 2011 to 277 in 2021.

Staffing levels have dropped significantly nationally with brigades now employing 25% fewer non-managerial firefighters and 22% fewer total staff members than were in role in 2011.

Across England, the average response time for primary incidents – those which have most potential to cause harm to people or properties – is now 37 seconds slower than it was in 2010.

Last year, it was six seconds slower than recorded in the year to September 2020.

Fire Minister Lord Greenhalgh said thousands of firefighters had been recruited across the country in 2021 and that fire and rescue authorities would receive around £2.3 billion to support their work.

He added: “Firefighters work tirelessly every day to protect our communities and the government has consistently given them the resources they need to keep people safe.

“Fire response times can fluctuate annually depending on many factors such as road traffic and weather but have remained relatively stable since March 2015.”