Official Government figures in a new report by the Fire Brigades Union show how the fire and rescue service in Essex is failing to reduce the number of deaths, home fires and casualties, in stark contrast to the downward trends nationally. The report comes as Essex County Fire and Rescue (ECFRS) begin a public consultation over spending cuts that propose even slower response times to 999 emergencies as more than a quarter of all frontline firefighters are planned to be axed.
The FBU say that ECFRS have misled the public in their consultation document by hugely exaggerating the success of vital prevention work despite Government figures recording actual increases in fire deaths, home fires and casualties over the past five years. ECFRS was the worst performing service in the country, over the past five years, when it came to reducing home fires.
ECFRS admit to failing their own response time targets for each of the last five years, with each year being slower than the last. To stop failing their own targets, fire chiefs are now asking the public to agree to setting even slower response time standards.
Keith Handscomb, of the FBU’s executive council, said: “The cuts are quite simply too big, too quick and too dangerous. Our vital community prevention work is struggling to keep up with the growing population and housing in our county. The Government’s statistics show we’re falling way behind the rest of the country in reducing the numbers of fires in our homes and reducing the numbers of people killed or injured. But these aren’t only statistics, they are real people, in real fires, whose lives really do depend on fire crews arriving quicker than ever to save them. Essex fire crews attended 14,000 emergencies last year and rescued over 2000 people.”
Criticising the way the consultation has been handled, Alan Chinn-Shaw, secretary of the FBU in Essex, said: “The public consultation is fundamentally flawed. The statistics they have produced in their consultation are deliberately misleading the public and the questions are clearly designed to produce a pre-determined outcome.
“The message trying to be sold to the public is that fires are reducing and so the frontline fire service should be reduced as well. But that is wrong. The facts speak for themselves. The fire and rescue service should stop trying to spin an excuse to make the biggest cuts in our history.
“The public deserve to know the full facts, warts and all. Essex fire service have failed to achieve their response time targets for the past five years, with each year being slower than the last. It is totally unacceptable that management’s response to these failings is purely to change the targets so they can achieve them.”
The FBU’s report is available here.
Firefighters in Essex will be on strike at various points from Friday 21 August until Wednesday 26 August 2015 in protest of the plans.