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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