Essex firefighters are striking again today (Tuesday 1 September) on the day before Essex fire authority meets to discuss its public consultation on the largest frontline cuts ever to Essex Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS). The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says the cuts are being driven through despite official Government figures showing ECFRS is failing to reduce the number of fire deaths, home fires and casualties, in stark contrast to the downward trend nationally.
The Government figures also show soaring hospital casualties resulting from fires in Essex. Whilst England overall saw a 22% reduction in all non-fatal hospital casualties over the last five years, Essex suffered an increase of one third during the same period. ECFRS was also the worst for this period when it came to reducing home fires.
These figures coincide with ECFRS 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, FBU executive council member for the eastern region said: “The public consultation up until now has been an absolute sham. The fire authority aren’t listening to firefighters or the public, neither of whom want these cuts.
“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 in Essex. But these aren’t only statistics, these are real people, in real fires, whose lives really do depend on fire crews arriving quicker than ever to save them. The situation will only get worse and more dangerous for the people of Essex if these huge cuts are forced through. The fire authority really has to start listening to the professionals and to the people they serve about the right way forward – investment instead of more cuts.”