The FBU (Fire Brigades Union) has published its submission to the inquiry into the Grenfell tragedy, on which the SKWAWKBOX will publish a fuller article shortly. However, one passage leaps out as requiring urgent attention.
The response of the firefighters who tackled the Grenfell blaze was heroic beyond description – but the London Fire Brigade (LFB) was not able to prevent the blaze taking hold of the building, nor able to bring it under control for many hours after it began.
The FBU’s submission to the inquiry lays out a stark truth: that the LFB is the best-equipped and -resourced in the country – and if LFB was overmatched by the blaze, then no other brigade in the country is equipped to handle the blaze if another ‘Grenfell’ were to occur.
Here’s what the FBU document says on the matter of resources and resilience:
While we accept the inquiry will look at “the arrangements in place locally for handling emergencies of this sort”, it is not sufficient to restrict the investigation to the London Fire Brigade. We are aware that both Surrey and Kent fire and rescue services contributed material resources to the Grenfell fire and fire control staff from outside London dealt with calls long into the incident, so matters of resilience already extend beyond the individual fire and rescue service (LFB) involved.
We would also expect the inquiry to assess overall national resilience for this kind of incident. The London Fire Brigade is the largest fire and rescue service in England and the FBU does not believe the same level of resources are currently available to tackle a similar tower block fire in other parts of the UK. We would appreciate clarification that the inquiry will examine the capacity of other fire and rescue services as well as overall national resilience capability.
The FBU then goes on to state why the situation is so dire:
The FBU believes that the inquiry should urgently examine the resources available to fire and rescue services to respond to fires and other emergencies. The union has warned that the service has lost 11,000 frontline firefighters since 2010, almost one-in-five of the firefighting force across the UK.
This inevitably has an impact on the provision of frontline services, including fire stations, fire engines and 999 response times. These reductions are the result of over 30% of central funding cuts under the coalition government (as assessed by the National Audit Office). A further 20% of central funding cuts are planned from 2016-20, according to the local government settlement, which will further reduce capacity within individual services, as well as broader resilience. The FBU wants these reductions halted immediately and rescinded, with new investment made to ensure that firefighters can provide the service the public expects.
Thirty percent cuts already inflicted and twenty percent more to come – after the nation has seen how vital a fully-capable fire service is to our safety.
And a frank assertion by the FBU that services around the country are anything but fully-resourced and at full capability.
The Tories simply cannot be trusted with our wellbeing. Or for that matter, with anything at all.
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