A dramatic decline in the amount of fire prevention work that fire and rescue services perform is putting lives at risk, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said, as new figures show that 10,000 jobs have been axed in England over the last seven years.
The home office’s ‘Fire Operational Statistics Bulletin’, released today, also reveals:
- The number of Home Fire Risk Checks and Fire Safety Audits have dropped by a quarter in five years.
- Fire and rescue services are spending less time on public safety campaigns and initiatives.
- 10% (4,300) of staff have left the fire and rescue service in the past year.
- The average age of a firefighter has increased to 41 as the number of young firefighters is slashed by 40%.
Fire prevention exercises such as Home Safety Checks, which have long been credited for reducing fire deaths and casualties, have been reduced by a quarter over the past five years. Fire and rescue services are also spending 13% less time on public safety campaigns and initiatives.
The figures are worrying because the number of fire deaths has rocketed by 15% in the past year – the single biggest percentage increase in 20 years.
The union has also warned of a ‘generational time bomb’ as the number of young firefighters aged between 16-24 has dropped by a shocking 40% in the past five years reflecting a lack of recruitment. The average age of a firefighter is now 41.
Andy Dark, FBU assistant general secretary, said: “We are deeply concerned about the impact of job cuts on the public’s fire and rescue service. The government’s data shows that fire services are now cutting back even further on fire prevention work because the workforce has been stripped. Fire services are struggling to cope with the current workload.
“The government have prioritised balancing the books over all else, including public safety. These figures paint a damning picture of today’s fire and rescue service, which is simply not safe in the hands of this government. Resources continue to be slashed, it’s taking longer to get to fires and more people are dying as a result.”
The new findings are the latest in a series of alarming statistics that show how budget cuts are compromising the service the public receive. In addition to the rising number of fire deaths announced in August, it was revealed late last year that response times to fires are now at their slowest in 20 years.
The full home office bulletin can be found here.