A Home Office report has revealed the number of firefighters employed by fire and rescue services has been reduced by nearly a quarter over the past decade.
In 2017, 33,049 firefighters were working in the UK according to the report. This was a 4% decrease compared with the previous year (34,395 in 2016), a 17% decrease compared with five years ago (39,678 in 2012) and a 22% decrease compared with ten years ago (42,385 in 2007).
The cut in firefighter posts mirrors a decline in fire prevention work with the number of fire safety audits declining by 14% over the last year and 36% fewer than in 2010.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it was deeply concerned about the figures and warned the drop in firefighter numbers was a ‘huge threat’ to public safety. The report also reveals that 11% of staff have left the service within the last year prompting fears that low morale is leading to firefighters seeking employment elsewhere.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said:
“The fire and rescue service is in crisis. Seven years of budget cuts have left the public at greater risk as there are far fewer firefighters left to respond to emergencies. We’ve seen thousands of frontline firefighter posts axed and dozens of fire stations closed with the result that it’s taking a lot longer for fire crews to arrive at emergencies. In a fire, every second counts – it can make the difference between life and death. If the government is serious about keeping the public safe, they should use the upcoming budget as an opportunity to bring the cuts to fire and rescue services to an end and invest in the service instead.
“Disasters like the fire at Grenfell Tower show how important and valued our emergency services are. MPs from all parties should support investment into the fire and rescue service in order to maintain a world class, professional service that keeps us all safe.”
Latest government figures show response times to practically all types of fires have increased significantly since 2010 and are at their slowest for 20 years.