All Liverpool CLP Chairs, Secs, sign letter calling on fire authority to abandon accelerated cuts


Merseyside firefighters are in dispute with the area’s fire authority over its plans for a major downgrade of fire cover on top of cuts already made in the first eight years of Tory government.

Earlier this month, residents of sixty square miles of the Wirral peninsula were left with no cover during the night as all available firefighters were engaged in combating a fire aboard a moored ship. Firefighters have told the SKWAWKBOX that residents have died avoidably because of the shortage of cover and that it is only a matter of time before more lives are lost, including those of firefighters, because of the lack of resilience and depth of cover under cuts already imposed.

And now, in the face of resolute action by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and huge support from local people, the council is trying to rush through its plans to avoid scrutiny and resistance. Measures that were slated for implementation next spring have been brought forward to 10 September – even though a token consultation with just sixty members of the public involved the spring implementation.

In a show of solidarity with those who protect the area’s people, the Chairs and Secretaries of all of Liverpool’s five CLPs (constituency Labour parties), on behalf of their members, have signed an open letter of support for firefighters, calling on the fire authority not just to abandon its rushed 10 September implementation but to halt the plan altogether:

As the Chairs and Secretaries of the 5 Constituency Labour Parties within Liverpool, we are writing to express the concern of members of the Labour Party throughout Liverpool with regard to the cuts to the Merseyside Fire Service.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (MFRA) from 2010 to 2020 will have had a real term 50% reduction in the grant support that it receives from Government.

Over the same period the Authority’s total revenue budget will reduce from £73.6m to £59.9m, a reduction of £13.7m.

As a consequence from 2010 to 2020 firefighter numbers will have reduced by 37% from 927 to 580 and almost half the fire engines will have been axed, from 42 to 22.

Fire stations have been closed or merged giving longer travel distances and therefore increased attendance times.

Four fire stations Aintree, Kensington, Crosby and Eccleston are now closed of a night with firefighters only available on pager’s returning to the fire station within 30 minutes should they be required. Wallasey and the City Centre are also soon to close of a night from 10th September 2018.

The cuts have simply gone too far and public and firefighter lives are now at risk. Nationally deaths from fire are on the increase and within Merseyside between 2011/12 and 2015/16 fire deaths more than trebled.

The blame for the situation Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority finds itself in must be placed firmly at the feet of the architects of those cuts, the Conservative government.

The tragedy of Grenfell Tower, the Echo Arena car park fire and the recent terrorist attacks must serve as a stark warning to us all about the risks our communities face.

We call on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority to immediately stop any further cuts or planned downgrading, especially the planned night time closure of Wallasey and the City Centre stations, whilst a moratorium takes place to consider the impact on the safety of the residents within our communities.

(Emphases added by the SKWAWKBOX.)

Against this backdrop, the authority’s decision to bring forward the plan with no consultation is indefensible.

The cuts already imposed have seen three times the number of fire deaths in the region and response times have almost doubled. MFRA must heed the wishes of the Merseyside public and the warnings of those who best understand the risks that the cuts continue to increase.

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  1. I emailed Cllr Les Byrom (Chair of the Fire Authority) regarding these cuts – here is his reply –
    Two years ago, in order to set a legal budget, amongst other massive savings we needed to look at the last resort of unhappy cuts.

    A Fully Crewed Fire Engine costs about £1m per year in revenue, made up almost entirely of wages. We could have reduced the number of appliances / stations, but the ‘least worst’ option was to move, in a phased way, our six quietest / most overlapped stations to part time crewing, first four, then six, but critically keep the stations open in case a future Government returns the funding.

    Kensington, Aintree, Eccleston and Crosby are already working a part time crew system with Liverpool City and Wallasey next. Each appliance would normally have 4 crews of ideally 5 firefighters on shift, at the 6, the appliance only has 2 crews on shift for the normally busiest pats of the day. Crews are then available to be called in to cover the cascading of calls in other unusually busy times.

    We used to have 1,500 firefighters and 48 Fire appliances, now we are down to 620 Fire Fighters and falling, with only 22+ appliances.

    The concept of an appliance only covering one geographical area is a thing of the past, all our appliances act as an overlapping team, we have 10 ‘Key’ stations, these are in positions that would enable 10 Minute attendance anywhere in the County, our average is less than 6 minutes, amongst the very best in the country, because we don’t rely on retained fire fighters ! Even with some part time crewing, we plan to maintain this nation leading average / standard.

    This would be for the ‘first call appliance’ we then have to cascade our appliance, call in part time staff and be prepared for the ‘second call’ but as we are spread so thin, we have to become more flexible in our operation, especially at the known busy times, we use our part time crews not on a retained basis, on 30 min call to active, but as the first call engines are deployed, we stand up the part time crews during unusually busy times.

    Fire calls are lower in the night and higher at ‘Tea Time’ so having 4 then 6 appliances crewed at our busier times, could give a better targeted cover rate.

    Nothing is better however that full time professional Fire Fighters. We want to go back to all full-time cover, this will involve finding £3m to recruit more staff to fill the gap, this is one of our active political priorities this year.

    People are right to say post Grenfell, things have changed, we took this urgent message to the LGA and the Government, but we have no more grant or budget, we could not reverse the plan for part time working at 6 stations, we would need £3m to plug the gap. If we had £500k additional budget out of the blue, we could hypothetically reverse Wallasey in isolation, but what would the community and MP’s of Crosby, Kensington and Aintree say? So far these communities have accepted the concept of part time crewing, because attendance times can still be maintained.

    We recently visited Crosby Fire station and spoke to the fire fighters actually working the day crewing system and they all said they liked this system.

    Also, stations don’t work in isolation covering just one community anymore, it’s a concept that went out with massive austerity Cuts.

    The Tory Government would love us to set an illegal budget, the commissioners would be sent in in a heartbeat and the private sector would be brought in as in London to cover strikes and shortages, we don’t want that.

    Les Byrom

    Councillor Leslie T. Byrom CBE MStJ FRICS

    Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service – Chair of the Authority

    Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council – Member for Victoria Ward Crosby

  2. I was hoping you’d get around to this, Skwawky.

    Public meeting 14th August in Alfie’s function room, Manor Rd Wallasey (100yds from illeagle’s office that was supposedly ‘attacked’. Think it/s the old ’27’ Club) for anyone interested.

    320k people over an area of 60.7 sq miles with TWO appliances covering the lot. Not good enough. All to ‘save’ £1.9m per year, when MFRA are sat on reserves of £25m.

    Wilfully putting ‘savings’ before lies – Where have we seen examples of that before, hmmm? People here have just had a massive rise in their council tax, too.

    Earlier in the week I emailed Cllr brian kenny (WBC councillor and none other than Merseyide Fire and Rescue Authority’s committee chairman for – get this – Community Safety and Protection!!

    Kenny is a New Brighton Resident. I was speaking to New Brighton cllr Pat Hackett about this – before I knew about brian kenny and his role’ and he said he (Hackett) might not be able to make that meeting as he’ll be attending another meeting going on simultaneously, regarding anti-social behaviour in New Brighton.

    It was then I decided to to read up on the fire station closure and discovered kenny’s role as well as finding out he’s a New Brighton resident. I emailed him to ask which meeting he’d be attending and received the snottiest and irrelevant of replies back stating he was on leave until 10/08 and that he didn’t organise the fire station closure meeting. He also made it clear he was on leave spending time with family over from Australia.

    I didn’t ask who organised it – I asked what meeting he’d be gracing with his magisterial presence, so I replied in my usual polite manner; apologising for disturbing him so much that he felt he was obliged to reply to my email, that I would’ve happily waited until he was back from his leave for an answer, and then I reminded him of the original question.

    To date have still not received any reply. I don’t expect to, neither. Even if I was expecting one I’d very much doubt it’d be a pertinent one.

    So there you have it folks. Cllr brian kenny evidently does not give a flying one about the safety of wirral citizens; nor does he appear remotely concerned about anti-social behaviour in his home town.

    Bidston & St James’ ward have an awful lot to answer for, electing kenny, and before him, jim crabtree – convicted of making death threats to a fellow labour councillor on the day Jo Cox was murdered.

  3. ‘Wilfully putting savings before LIVES’ not ‘lies’ – dope!!

    Also – And I have no confirmation of this – I’ve heard that there’s a secret fund to pay the fire bobbies who agree to scab if there are any strikes…

  4. Skwawkbox bit out of date – Wallasey CLP also signed the letter. The Fire Authority originally due to close overnight cover at Wallasey and Liverpool City Centre in the fourth quarter of this year (ie Jan-Mar 2019). They have now brought this forward to 10 September and will only put “delay” it (ie. put it back to the original scheduled date) if the FBU accept changes to terms and conditions. That’s how much they really care. Public meeting in Jack Jones House, 20th August, with MPs Dan Carden and Louise Ellman, Mark Rowe speaking from FBU, organized by Riverside and Walton CLPs. We need to stop this before there are more preventable deaths.

    1. Yes, Wallasey has signed. However, the letter received from the FBU specifically mentions the five Liverpool CLPs. If we receive an updated version, an updated article will go up.

  5. Down the other end of the Wirral, Chester recently lost one of its 2 fire engines, which was re-located to a new fire station out in the sticks…just 5 miles from UNRENCO’s Capenhurst uranium enrichment plant, whereupon URENCO laid off their entire in-house fire service at a cost of 25 jobs.

    Chester’s Council Tax payers must be thrilled to see their hard-earned being misappropriated in such a way to save a multi-national poison-manufacturing corporation a few quid…

  6. Yes I am afraid the lives of working people in Liverpool and elsewhere are being put as risk because of ruthless Tory/Lib Dem then Tory ruthless austerity cuts!
    The first thing the Tories/Lib Dems did 8 years ago was to cut corporation tax for Big Business, and cut taxes for: millionaires, private landlords with multiple properties, and later gave £145m tax cuts to hedge funds and hedge funds gave the Tories £50m!
    The Tories/Lib Dems also changed local government settlement rules so instead of these taking into account population size and NEED they calculated them on population size only.
    Ths billions of cuts have fallen disproportionately on mainly Northern Labour Councils and perhaps being a Labour councillor during the last 8 years has not been the best experience but could some perhaps show a bit more fight and imagination instead of just saying what can we do but then again comrades what would we do in their position?
    So the message from the Tories/Lib Dems then the Tories and now Tories/DUP is don’t worry rich an powerful, this austerity stuff won’t affect you, it’s only for working people.
    We need to get this message out in leaflets in marginals and the Tories only get out of bed on a morning to stuff the mouths of the rich with gold!
    Need Tories out soon as, and JC in soon as, for thel health and safety of all working people.

  7. Footnote: Wonder if the Labour Councils nationally could have challenged the Tories together more, working in tandem but it now seems the horse has bolted.
    Even a few Tory councils now are in trouble so we need to keep an eye on them to see if they get any preferential treatment?

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