Fire-fighters Protest at Frontline Services

PUBLISHED: 15:59 25 May 2011 | UPDATED: 16:29 25 May 2011

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"FBU members here in Cambridgeshire and up and down the country are saying 'enough is enough'. They are facing attacks on their pay, pensions and professional standards."

FIRE-FIGHTERS, fire officers and emergency fire control staff from across Cambridgeshire will gather at midday on Thursday at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough fire headquarters in Huntingdon to lobby members of the Cambridgeshrie Fire Authority ahead of their 2pm meeting to decide the largest package of cuts to frontline emergency services every seen in the history of the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack will be attending to address the lobby and to show the support of the national union behind the campaign against the frontline cuts.

The lobby will also be joined by delegations of fire-fighters representing neighbouring brigades across East Anglia from Bedfordshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk in what has been described by the union as a “show of solidarity” and “signalling the growing unrest of fire-fighters all over the country at the dangerous and financially driven destruction of the fire and rescue service”, which they are convinced will put both public and fire-fighter safety at risk.

The cuts package affects all areas of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and includes proposals to close Manea Fire Station and shed at least 25 whole-time posts. The union believes the measures, which includes a review of shift patterns, will have a detrimental effect the delivery of blue light 999 response to emergencies. The cuts package includes proposals to potentially close and downgrade current fire stations which could mean the public waiting longer for fire crews to arrive when they dial 999. The proposals include the loss of specialist vehicles to deal with high rise emergencies and road traffic accidents as well as cuts in the numbers of firefighters and fire officers, spreading them even more thinly across the county.

Kevin Napier Cambridgeshire FBU Brigade secretary said: “Never in living memory has anyone working in the fire service in Cambridgeshire faced cuts of this magnitude and our members, the frontline professionals, are convinced both public and fire-fighter safety will be put at risk if the fire authority nod these proposals through. We have been holding meetings with FBU members all over the county and to say there is strong opposition to these proposals is an understatement. Cambridgeshire’s fire-fighters will not sit idly by while the fire and rescue service they, their families and their communities rely upon is decimated.”

“These frontline cuts are being rushed through without closer attention being paid first to seeking out other unnecessary extravagances or waste. The frontline 999 service should be the last place for cuts to be considered. We are urging the newly formed fire authority to take a step back, to pause and take the time to think again. After all, very many of the new elected members sitting on the fire authority have only had a matter of days to get to know the complex workings of the fire service and to assess the serious impact their decisions on the proposed cuts will have. We urge the new fire authority to at least defer any decisions until they can make an informed assessment and can consult more widely with the constituents they represent and the professional fire crews who work on the frontline in their communities.”

Deputy chief fire office, Chris Strickland, said the force had been as transparent as possible about the savings, but acknowledged that the brunt of of the cuts would fall on staff.

“What is uppermost in our minds is that this will have a significant effect on our staff across the whole of the service. We are looking at the possibility of a significant reduction and we are working with our staff to support them through a very difficult time.”

Matt Wrack FBU general secretary said: “FBU members here in Cambridgeshire and up and down the country are saying ‘enough is enough’. They are facing attacks on their pay, pensions and professional standards. But their public service ethos remains as resolute as ever and they will not stand by while the service their communities have the right to expect is dismantled. They are dedicated professionals who are prepared to risk their own lives in the service of their communities and they are rightly proud of the professional service they deliver and they will have my full support in their fight to maintain that.”

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