Millions of lives ‘will be at risk’ as almost a quarter of Greater Manchester fire stations will be forced to close if government spending cuts go ahead, union leaders are warning.
At least ten fire stations across the region would be axed and many of the 41 current emergency brigades would suffer from a reduction in staff and equipment.
Government are planning to downgrade the fire service’s budget in order to combat the country’s deficit, but the Fire Brigades Union insist that the cuts would have severe repercussions for public safety.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “People need to realise that this government is now putting public safety at risk. People rely on having a fire station near where they live, so that in the event of any emergency, professionally trained and well-equipped firefighters will come to their aid.
“The cuts have now gone so far that dozens of fire stations are threatened with closure, an unprecedented development in the recent history of our fire service. We cannot just stand back and watch this essential service be systematically dismembered by savage spending cuts.”
Up to 70 stations across England are facing closure and ten Greater Manchester crews could be lost.
Despite GMFRS not having any plans to close down stations, CFO Steve McGuirk insisted that there is still no indication of how safe the service’s financial future is.
County Fire Officer Steve McGuirk said: “There are no plans to shut any fire stations in Greater Manchester because we have no idea of the financial settlement at present.
“For many months GMFRS has joined other metropolitan fire services across the country in lobbying the government for a fairer share of the budget and this continues.
“Only when we know more about that settlement can we make considered reflections but the people of Greater Manchester can be reassured that any changes would occur with full public consultation over a period of months and years and not days and weeks.”
London (17), West and South Yorkshire (11 each) and Merseyside (10) would also be affected by the spending cuts and Mr Wrack is condemning the decisions that were made out of public knowledge.
“People need to understand that behind those big red doors, things are changing in their local fire station,” he added. “Even where the lights remain on, there could be fewer firefighters, fewer appliances and less fire cover than the public expect.
“Firefighters have excelled again in recent weeks, dealing with floods as well as fires and all manner of emergencies. That’s what people expect from their fire and rescue service and firefighters are very proud to deliver an exceptional level of service.
“But this government is cutting the service to the point where they are putting lives at risk.”
The union are reacting ahead of Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, which will outline the country’s economy and how the government’s budget plans are working.
A government spokesman said: “Fire and rescue authorities deliver an incredibly important service for local communities. Every bit of the public sector needs to play its part to cut the deficit.
“However, despite that, fire and rescue, as a front-line emergency service, has been protected with reductions back-loaded to give more time for sensible savings – like better procurement, joint working and tackling outdated working practices – to be made without impacting on the quality or breadth of services offered to communities.”
Picture courtesy of GMFRS