Surrey County Council must not ignore residents crying out against dangerous fire cuts, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will say today, in an address to County Hall. Over 13,000 people have signed a petition calling for an end to the drastic cuts to night-time fire cover across Surrey, due to be debated today, the most signatures on a Surrey petition in a decade.
The cuts, which include removing seven fire engines at night-time and cutting 70 firefighter posts, were approved by Surrey County Council at a cabinet meeting on 24 September. 68% of respondents to the official consultation opposed cuts to fire cover, with just 18% approving.
Addressing Surrey County Council, Lee Belsten, Surrey FBU brigade secretary, will say:
"Are you listening to your constituents? Your residents? Your firefighters? The community has cried out against these dangerous cuts. We must not be ignored.
“It’s ludicrous to claim the service is able to mitigate any increased risk through prevention alone, while gutting emergency response. There is clear evidence that the number of fires in homes remains consistent, regardless of the number of home fire safety checks.
“They are claiming that the service will continue to meet its’ standard response times – a standard that Surrey Fire has never been able to consistently achieve since it was downgraded in 2011. Surrey already cannot meet their standard with existing resources – and these cuts will only make things worse.”
Surrey’s Chief Fire Officer has claimed that carrying out more preventative work will vastly reduce the number of dwelling fires on the same day, despite recent evidence that existing fire prevention capabilities have little impact on fires in homes.
Fire prevention posts have been cut significantly since 2010, with fire safety audits falling over the same period. The FBU believes that these positions should be reinstated alongside emergency response capabilities, with the impact assessed after five years.
The FBU set Surrey Fire and Rescue Service a deadline of 7 October to address its’ concerns. As that deadline has passed, the union will now consider balloting its’ members for industrial action under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.