Fire Brigades Union reveal shocking extent of front line officer austerity cuts in Aylesbury Vale

Buckinghamshire has lost 266 Firefighters since 2010, the Fire Brigades Union has revealed today.
Buckinghamshire has lost 266 Firefighters since 2010, the Fire Brigades Union has revealed today.

Buckinghamshire has lost 266 Firefighters since 2010, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said today.

Today the Fire Brigades Union has released shocking figures showing a 19% cut in front line officers since 2010.

They have also claimed overall spending on UK fire and rescue has fallen 38% since 2005.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, 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 pay-cheques.”

Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority are feeling the pinch, after a 48% reduction in the support grant they receive from the Government over the past few years.

They have praised the hard work and dedication of their staff for absorbing the cuts, through improved efficiency.

A statement from Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority said:

"Over the past few years we have experienced a 48 per cent reduction in the revenue support grant we receive from the Government, and the corresponding funding gap has so far been absorbed through our improved efficiency and the hard work and dedication of our staff.

Through this period we have not removed a single fire appliance from operational service, closed any fire stations or made any of our staff redundant.

"We are, however, becoming increasingly stretched, and are concerned for the sustainability of our current levels of service should the funding position continue.

"With unprecedented cross-party support, Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority wrote to the Fire Minister in July expressing its concerns on this matter, proposing options for the Minister’s consideration. We await any decision.

"As always, if anyone needs the fire and rescue service, dial 999 and we will respond."

The FBU is urgently calling for the government to fund firefighter recruitment and reverse a decade of severe cuts to fire and rescue services.

In England, firefighter numbers have been cut by 21% since 2010, despite a 1% increase this year, with recruitment concentrated in London and the North West.

Central government funding for English fire and rescue services has been cut by 30% in cash terms between 2013 and 2020.

Northern Ireland and Wales have seen firefighter numbers fall by 4% and 1% respectively, while Scotland has seen a slight increase of 3%.

The news comes as fires are increasing, with a 10% spike in England and an 8% spike in Northern Ireland over the last year, after wildfires tore across the country.

The latest data for Wales saw a 3% increase in fires, while Scotland saw a 4% decline in fires.

41,771 of the 45,653 people rescued by UK firefighters last year were from non-fire incidents, such as flooding, road traffic collisions, height rescues, lift rescues, and hazardous chemical spillages.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, continued:

“The Whaley Bridge dam collapse saw fire and rescue services stretched to the limit. Firefighters were pulled from every brigade in the region, and from as far as Chichester and London.

“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. Whaley Bridge will not be the last extreme weather event to stretch fire and rescue resources.”

This year is the only net increase in UK firefighter numbers in a decade[7]. Around 8,000 of the jobs cut since 2010 are wholetime firefighters, while 3,000 retained (on-call) firefighters have also been cut. Around a quarter of fire control staff, who take the emergency calls and mobilise fire crews, have been lost.

In response to these figures, a Home Office spokesperson said:

“Over the past 10 years the total number of fire incidents in England has fallen by more than a quarter and there have been major steps forward in prevention work.

“Fire and rescue services have the resources they need to do their important work and overall will receive around £2.3billion in 2019/20.

“It is for each fire and rescue authority to determine the operational resources required to deliver services to local communities.”