Just how dangerous things are getting when it comes to being able to call on the fire and rescue service for help in an emergency has been highlighted in a report by the Local Government Association (LGA).
The LGA, which represents all the fire and rescue services in England and Wales, has mapped the impact that an expected further 10% cut in funding will have in 2015 – 2016 on a typical fire and rescue service. Despite “driving out inefficiency” and “pioneering innovative service delivery”, the LGA says it will have to reduce or remove services altogether as they try to manage 2014 -2015 budgets with on average a third less government funding than four years ago. It’s clear from the impact assessment in the report that the LGA is deeply worried about their ability to deliver effective fire and rescue services.
The LGA claims to have made significant savings so far without a major impact on critical services, but now says further funding restrictions will possibly force fire and rescue services “to make cuts that could increase the level of risk faced by local people and local businesses”. The report refers to the preventative work done by fire and rescue authorities that has resulted in a steady fall in the number of fires, but points out that this is now at risk because of sustained cuts to fire authority budgets. FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said “it’s clear that across the country cuts are already slowing emergency response times, impacting on critical services and endangering lives”.
The report estimates that a typical fire authority is faced with a funding gap that is increasing by £3 million a year and set to reach £17.5 million by 2020. The LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee Chairwoman Kay Hammond said “ the reality is that fire services are reaching the limit of efficiency savings and the next few years will be very challenging … if fire and rescue services are expected to keep playing a key role in national resilience, then they must be given the funding to do so effectively”.
FBU General Secretary Mark Watts said, “the LGA is right to say that fire and rescue services must be given the funding to play a key, continued role in national resilience”. “All of us working in fire and rescue and local government must stand together to save fire and rescue services and convince central government to provide adequate funding for brigades”. The report points out that the impact assessment does not cover the London Fire Brigade, which accounts for 20% of all fire service expenditure in England. (Source: Morning Star10/03/2014)
Despite London Mayor Boris Johnson’s claims that there will be no reductions in front-line fire and rescue services, Chairman of London Fire Authority Brian Coleman, in an interview on LBC said “The truth is there are going to be £60 million pounds worth of cuts to the fire authority budget over the next four years – the details are still being worked out”. (Source: LBC 11/03/2014)