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LOBBY YOUR MP | After the floods: defend our fire and rescue service
Firefighters have always rescued people during floods and will continue to do so but the service needs to be properly resourced, with sufficient staff to deal with more frequent flooding and the best equipment to deal with the hazards. The past few years have seen unprecedented cuts to the fire service.
Ask your MP to campaign to make sure firefighter have the resources to deal with major incidents such as flooding.
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I am writing, in the wake of the recent storms, to express my concerns about the ability of the fire and rescue service to deal with major incidents such as flooding. Firefighters and others in our communities have consistently raised concerns about the serious underfunding of the fire and rescue service. In addition to this, fire and rescue services in England and Wales do not even have a statutory duty to respond to flooding. The past few years have seen unprecedented cuts to the fire service with central government cutting its funding by 30% during the course of the last parliament. These cuts resulted in the loss of 7,000 frontline firefighter jobs across the UK and the closure of 40 fire stations. Scores of appliances have also been cut. This is seriously undermining the fire and rescue service’s ability to deal with floods, fires and other incidents. Firefighters have played a marvelous role rescuing people whose homes have been flooded. They play a pivotal role in the clear up operation. Over the past few years firefighters have saved thousands of people from the dangers of flooding. They are central to efforts to protect livestock, industry and property, limiting the damage to local communities and the economy, as well as keeping people safe. Politicians have consistently recognised this, often praising and thanking firefighters for the role they have played. At the same time however government is proceeding with further cuts to the service. As a result of the cuts in the last parliament: • Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service saw a reduction of 87 firefighters (12.6%). • Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service saw a reduction of 31 firefighters (8%) • Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service saw a reduction of 241 firefighters (18.3%) • Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service saw a reduction of 171 firefighters (18.6%) • North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service saw a reduction of 78 firefighters (10%) In addition to these reductions, further cuts are being considered in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Northumberland. These cuts will result in appliances being removed, stations closing and frontline jobs being lost. Both Tyne and Wear and North Yorkshire are replacing fire appliances with Tactical Response Vehicles - a small van like fire appliance that serves little purpose in major incidents such as flooding. These plans will limit the ability of the fire and rescue service to respond to incidents such as flooding. These situations are not unique, across the country fire service budgets are being decimated All of these cuts limit the fire services ability to respond to major incidents, whether they be flooding, terrorist attacks, industrial disasters or chemical spillages as well as firefighters day to day work at fires, road traffic collisions and other incidents. These points were made by the members of parliament for Bolsover and Bermondsey and Old Southwark on Monday 7 December 2015 in the House of Commons. Firefighters have always rescued people during floods and will continue to do so but the service needs to be properly resourced, with sufficient staff to deal with more frequent flooding and the best equipment to deal with the hazards. A statutory duty for firefighters to attend floods would help fire and rescue services, other emergency services and the government to plan effectively and reduce risk to life and property. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), who represent the vast majority of firefighters have made this point and outlined the full case for a statutory duty in their recent report ‘Inundated: the lessons of the recent flooding for the fire and rescue service’. This report can be accessed via the following link: http://bit.ly/FBUinundated. This point was also raised in the House of Commons on 7 December, by the shadow fire minister, Liz McInnes. I urge you to raise these points with colleagues in parliament and to campaign for a statutory duty for the fire and rescue service to respond to flooding. In addition I urge you to speak to local firefighters about the challenges they are currently facing and campaign for investment into the service to ensure public safety is put at the very top of the agenda. I would be keen to elaborate these points further and discuss the issues I have raised. I would be available for a meeting to do this at your convenience.
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