Fire service is being ‘crippled’ by cuts, report claims

The fire service is being “crippled” by cuts in the number of control room staff, a report claims.

The Fire Brigades Union said more than 500 posts had been axed across the UK since 2010 – a quarter of the total.

The loss of so many jobs had led to “chronic” shortages, with staff having to work overtime, said the union.

More fire services are introducing 12 hour shifts, which is disruptive to family life, especially as most control room operators are women, the FBU said in a report.

Lynda Rowan O’Neill, of the FBU, said: “Control staff have been subjected to more than a decade of failed government policy, characterised by cuts, mergers and underinvestment.”

Last month it emerged firefighters will see £2million cut from their budget over the next four years.

The 28 per cent budget cut to Shropshire Fire Authority, which runs the county’s fire service, was revealed by the Fire Brigades Union, which branded the changes “savage”.

Malcolm Stevenson, a spokesman for the Shropshire Fire Authority, said it had anticipated the reductions well in advance and a plan has been put in place that will “ensure our delivery of service up to 2020 and beyond that”.

The cuts come as part of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)’s Local Government Settlement, providing figures for the central grant allocated to metropolitan and combined fire authorities in England.

Under the settlement, Shropshire Fire Authority’s income from central government will fall from £7.2million in the year 2015-16, to £5.2million by 2019-20.

Fire authorities generally raise their income through central government funding and council tax.

A spokesman for the FBU said: “The central point is that these figures are very bad news – a 20 per cent cut overall – more of the same.

“Once again they show that the fire and rescue service has not been protected. In some cases, fire authorities will lose a quarter of their central revenue over the next four years.

“What this government and its predecessor have done to the fire and rescue service is a travesty. They have axed 10,000 firefighter jobs across the UK during the last seven years – around one fifth of the workforce.

“At a time of increasing risks from an ageing population, flooding and various other emergencies, they are tearing up the fabric of our communities. It’s about time politicians raised their voices in protest.”

Shropshire Fire Service was first put into financial difficulties by government austerity measures which have slashed at least £3.2 million from its £20 million annual budget since 2010.

A total of 10 per cent of firefighters and support staff jobs have gone, plus a 25 per cent reduction in senior officer roles among a host of budget savings.