Fire services have lost nearly a third of their fire safety inspectors since 2010, a shock report reveals.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), who compiled the figures from a series of Freedom of Information requests, says the staggering 28% drop in inspector numbers across the UK is a risk to public safety.
The union warns that the real figure could be much higher as some fire and rescue services do not know how many inspectors they employed in 2010.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, which covers England’s third biggest city, Leeds, was hardest hit, losing 70% of its inspectors. Fire services in Gloucestershire, Durham, Cumbria, Norfolk and Avon all lost more than half of their fire safety specialists.
Fire safety inspectors are responsible for ensuring that communal buildings and public spaces meet fire safety standards. An essential part of fire prevention, the inspectors have played an important role in the long term reduction of serious fires – a trend that is under threat if the cuts continue, the FBU has warned.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “Fire safety specialists play an essential role in the fire service. They help to enforce fire safety regulations that save lives and prevent damage to property. Fire services need proper funding, more inspectors and greater support if they are to continue keeping people safe.
“Grenfell Tower has underlined the importance of fire safety in buildings. The drastic cut in fire safety inspectors makes it much more difficult for those remaining to do their job effectively. The government needs to wake up to what endless budget cuts have done to the lifesaving fire service.”
The impact of the reduction could be worse than feared as 16 fire and rescue services could not provide data on the number of fire safety inspectors they employed in 2010.
The union says this is proof that the government’s ‘laissez-faire’ approach to regulating fire services, leaving the responsibility to local authorities, has backfired.
HM Inspector of Fire Services in England and Wales, the organisation that had been recording these figures, was scrapped in 2000.
Since then, data on inspector numbers has been patchy with some fire services unable to produce figures when asked.
See the full figures in the FBU's October parliamentary briefing paper Fire and Rescue Service Matters.