Firefighters are our unsung heroes. We need to stand with them against cuts

by Joe Anderson 

Twice in the past year, the people of Liverpool have found themselves grateful for the professionalism and bravery of our Fire and Rescue Service.

As nine crews battled through last Sunday night to save the iconic Littlewoods Building from a savage blaze, my mind went back to the devastating fire at our exhibition centre car park fire on New Year’s Eve. Both these events underline the importance of having enough firefighters nearby when needed.

However, just like local authorities, the fire and rescue service has undergone savage cuts over the past decade. Between 2010 and 2015, budgets were slashed by 30 per cent. During this parliament, they will be cut by an additional 20 per cent.

As a group of workers, there are few higher in the affections of the British people. But this has not stopped successive Conservative ministers from making arbitrary and ill thought out reductions to the fire service’s budget.

The cold wind of austerity has blown in the faces of even these brave public servants. As a result, 11,000 frontline firefighter jobs have gone since 2010 – one in six. Stations, appliances and equipment have also been cut.

I cannot think of a clearer case when it comes to the sheer folly of austerity. Not least because the increasing demands on the service sees our firefighters provide a range of emergency responses to floods, road traffic collisions, chemical spillages, industrial disasters and terrorist attacks as well as fires.

The Fire Brigades Union General-Secretary, Matt Wrack, recently made the point that despite the bravery and commitment of officers, years of cuts had eroded the fire service’s response to the Grenfell tragedy – as well as the moorlands fires in Lancashire and West Yorkshire during the summer.

It stands to reason – to those of us outside the Whitehall bubble – that you cannot have a decade of savage cuts and expect the same level of service. Harold Wilson’s famous remark that the Treasury ‘knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’ was never truer.

Just last week, the fire authority here in Merseyside launched a campaign urging the Government to allow us to increase the precept so we can retain a night service at two of our stations across Merseyside that were at risk of being lost.

Political leaders across Merseyside will now lobby ministers to allow us the maximum flexibility to ensure the Chief Fire Officer has the resources he needs. If this means asking the people of Merseyside to pay a bit more in tax via the precept, then I am clear this is what we should do.

There comes a point when enough is enough. Public safety demands that we maintain a fire service capable of meeting the demands of a growing population living in ever more densely packed towns and cities.

We need to stand by our firefighters and protect this most vital of public services.

Its early days, but the Littlewoods Building – a much-loved art deco landmark on Liverpool’s skyline – appears to have been saved. The plan is to convert it into a film and television studio, with a commitment from Twickenham Studios to take 8,000sq metres space in the building.

In years to come, when the vision for the site is realised, creating thousands of jobs in our creative sector, a grateful city will look back on last night and thank the firefighters of Merseyside for once again being there when we needed them.

Joe Anderson is Mayor of Liverpool


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10 Responses to “Firefighters are our unsung heroes. We need to stand with them against cuts”

  1. Alf says:

    Ever seen a Blairite on a picket line? No, me neither.

  2. John P Reid says:

    Alf. so you don’t go to view picket lines?!

  3. Vern says:

    Perhaps there really was no money left as Liam Byrne said so in 2010. Nobody goes out of their way to endanger lives but budgets have to be met, efficiencies found and smarter ways of doing things sought. Change is inevitable – buildings are being made safer with better fire protection measures designed in that result in less resources required thereafter.

  4. Landless Peasant says:

    It’s only the Tories to blame for this and their disastrous insane Austerity ideology. It’s the same with Policing too, crime is out of control and the Cops are struggling to cope. When will it ever end?

  5. Gman says:

    You realise that fireman have to do very very little nowadays? There are hardly any shouts, as house fires are exceptionally rare. Fireman refuse to take first responder shouts for cardiac arrest, and there performance and work to rule with anti terrorism means they are more or less not considered part of anti terrorism strategy.

    Fire service now is largely a make work scheme in which many areas the pumps are not turned.

    They are not unsung heros they are bolchie and unreliable with very little to do nowadays.

  6. Gman says:

    You realise that fireman have to do very very little nowadays? There are hardly any shouts, as house fires are exceptionally rare. Fireman refuse to take first responder shouts for cardiac arrest, and their performance and work to rule with anti terrorism means they are more or less not considered part of anti terrorism strategy.

    Fire service now is largely a make work scheme in which many areas the pumps are not turned.

    They are not unsung heros they are bolchie and unreliable with very little to do nowadays.

  7. Landless Peasant says:

    Come back and give us your opinions after your chip pan explodes Gman, or when you have been cut out of the wreckage of a crashed car, or your child is impaled on railings, someone puts fireworks through your letterbox, your car gets torched by arsonists, your electric fuses and causes a fire and you knock a candle over, your BBQ goes up and your cat gets stuck up a tree, then you might change your tiny vindictive Rightwing little mind. Twat.

  8. Landless Peasant says:

    Vern, the money has been diverted to the Rich, ordinary people are suffering and dying and our essential services cut to the bone to bail out the Banks and pay the Bankers’ bonuses. Austerity is the biggest con trick the Tories have ever got away with, a totally unnecessary and vindictive means of taking public money and handing it to the Rich. They should hang for what they have done.

  9. Vern says:

    And for a moment Landless I thought you genuinely believed what you were writing. Do you have evidence that backs up your conspiracy theories?

  10. Anne says:

    As well as attending to the emergencies fire fighters also do a lot of preventative work, such checking buildings – such as residential homes – for appropriate fire safety equipment and detailing procedures for staff members should an emergency arise. Often, when cuts occur, it is this kind of service that is the first to go.

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