EVERYONE should stand together and put pressure on local politicians to stop cuts to the county’s fire service which it is feared will inevitably lead to people dying.
That’s the urgent message being issued this week by the Fire Brigade Union following a decision on Thursday by Cambridgeshire Fire Authority to approve a raft of cuts including the possible closure of Manea fire station.
Fire Authority members approved a second round of key decisions aimed at enabling Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) to act quickly when the government announces its funding formula in December.
It is anticipated the announcement could mean the need for at least £6 million worth of cuts. The service has already identified savings of £4.3 million.
This latest round of cuts branded by FBU’s regional secretary Adrian Clarke as the worst ever seen in the brigade’s history are being put in place as a contingency plan in case the government cuts the service’s budget even further than anticipated.
Mr Clarke said the additional cuts will decimate the service and will “inevitably put people’s lives at risk” and he is calling on the public to get behind the union and help put pressure on local politicians including MPs and councillors to get the government to think again about budget cuts.
He said the union would stand firm against the closure of fire stations, like Manea, and the cutting of appliances and that members were prepared to take industrial action if necessary.
But the public has a role to play and if campaign groups can be formed to oppose the cuts and put strong pressure on local politicians there was a chance to change the government’s mind.
He said firefighters had already done their bit to help with savings by accepting a new working practice which means working more days for no extra pay.
There has also been the loss of 24 jobs through the non-replacement of staff leaving.
Mr Clarke said closing Manea fire station and cutting appliances at other village stations will have an impact on the whole service.
“I have been a firefighter in Cambridgeshire for 29 years and this is the worst set of proposals for the service I have ever seen. It will decimate the fire service in Cambridgeshire and unfortunately it is inevitable people will lose their lives and some of those will be firefighters taking increased risks because there are not enough resources.
“Firefighters are not simply going to put up with it, but they need the public. This is a two way street and we all need to work together to fight this,” said Mr Clarke, who said the FBU would be holding meetings across the county to garner public support.
Chris Strickland, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for CFRS said the fire service will only have four months’ notice of what if any cuts it will need to make once the budget is announced.
He added: “This means the service must plan now for the ‘worst case scenario’ and be ready to implement this quickly if needed to make sure it can make the savings in time.
“We remain one of the leanest fire services in the country and so we can’t sustain cuts over this level without directly impacting on our front line service.”