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Fire Union claims drop in firefighter numbers is stretching service

PUBLISHED: 18:15 05 September 2019 | UPDATED: 18:15 05 September 2019

Suffolk and Essex have seen a reduction in the number of firefighters in the last ten years   Picture: ESSEX COUNTY FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE

Suffolk and Essex have seen a reduction in the number of firefighters in the last ten years Picture: ESSEX COUNTY FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE

ESSEX COUNTY FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE

Firefighter numbers in Suffolk and Essex have reduced drastically over the last ten years, the Fire Brigades Union has revealed.

The FBU say firefighter numbers in England have dropped 21% since 2010 Picture: PHIL MORLEYThe FBU say firefighter numbers in England have dropped 21% since 2010 Picture: PHIL MORLEY

From 2010 to 2019, Suffolk saw the number of firefighters drop by 178 - a 23% decrease in numbers - while in Essex, numbers fell by 250 - down 18%.

In England, firefighter numbers have been cut by 21% since 2010, with nearly 11,500 fewer UK firefighters than in 2010.

Last year there was an increase of 1% in England, according to figures obtained through a freedom of information request.

However, Matt Wrack, the FBU's general secretary, described last year's rise in numbers as 'measly', adding it would do little to 'plug the gaps' in the service.

He said: "This shameless government is doing nothing to ease the pressure on over stretched 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 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."

The FBU described the decade's fall in firefighter numbers as a 'crisis', caused by 'chronic under funding' by central government, saying funding for English fire and rescue services had been cut by 30% in cash terms from 2013 to 2020. It said of the 45,653 people rescued by firefighters across the UK last year, the vast majority, 41,771 were from non-fire events, such as road traffic collisions, flooding, rescues from height and hazardous chemical spillages.

Mr Wrack said the Whaley Bridge dam collapse, which was attended by crews from Suffolk, was an example where fire services were 'stretched to the limit'.

He said: "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 wildfire and rescuing people stranded in flooding.

"Whaley Bridge will not be the last extreme weather event to stretch fire and rescue resources."

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