The Fire Brigades Union is calling on the government to reverse a decade of severe cuts after analysis shows that the climate emergency is increasing the number of incidents that firefighters attend.
According to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, there has been a 19% cut in UK frontline firefighters since 2010, while spending on fire and rescue services has fallen by 38% since 2005.
The FBU says the number of firefighter posts has increased by 318 this year, an increase of 1%, but there are nearly 11,500 fewer UK firefighters than in 2010. The news comes as the total number of fires is increasing, up 10% in England, 8% in Northern Ireland and 3% in Wales. Only Scotland recorded a decline (4%).
As chancellor Sajid Javid prepares to unveil his spending review, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This shameless government is doing nothing to ease the pressure on overstretched and underpaid firefighters, all while making dubious claims of spending elsewhere. Fire and rescue services are in crisis after years of brutal cuts – and this year’s measly increase in posts is wholly insufficient to plug the gaps.
“We cannot allow firefighters’ life-saving work to go unrecognised. The chancellor must fund firefighter recruitment and end the years of real-term pay cuts for firefighters. Our communities need more firefighters – and the government needs to reflect the work they do in their pay cheques.”
Around 8,000 of the jobs cut since 2010 were full-time firefighters, while 3,000 roles were on-call firefighters. The FBU added that around a quarter of fire control staff, who handle emergency calls and mobilise fire crews, have also been lost.
Wrack explained that this summer’s partial dam collapse in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, saw fire and rescue services severely stretched, with resources pulled from as far as Chichester and London.
“If this government is serious about tackling the climate emergency, it needs to invest in our frontline defences – and it is firefighters who are tackling wildfires and rescuing people stranded in flooding. Whaley Bridge will not be the last extreme weather event to stretch fire and rescue resources,” he said.