Lives being put at risk by brigade cuts, MP claims

Yvonne Fovargue
Yvonne Fovargue

A borough MP says that lives are being put at risk by the latest slew of Government cuts to the fire service.

And forecasts suggest that the dangers will increase as more budget reductions are imposed over the next three years.

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said Home Office statistics show fire cover in the region is already being stretched thinly and she worries what the effect would be in the event of a major emergency in Wigan.

The figures show Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has lost 828 employees since 2010, a drop of almost a third.

Ms Fovargue said: “This government is literally playing with fire. By under-funding our fire service, lives are being put at risk and yet at the same time the government’s austerity agenda has failed to deliver any economic benefit. It’s clearly a broken system.”

Her furious response to the statistics has been echoed by shadow ministers in the Labour Party.

The Government has said the number of incidents involving fire and the number of people losing their lives in serious blazes have been on a downward trend since the early 1980s.

However, the new figures from the Home Office show that following the number of incidents attended by fire crews plateauing between June 2012 and June 2016 firefighters’ workload then jumped by 14 per cent in the year ending June 2017.

The National Audit Office suggested fire authorities across the country received 30 per cent less funding from central government in 2015 than they did four years earlier.

Cuts of a further 20 per cent are expected for the period between 2016 and 2020.

Ms Fovargue and her office also highlighted figures from the Association of British Insurers suggesting commercial and industrial fires could cost the country £10bn by 2020.

The number of fire safety inspectors across the country has also fallen by 28 per cent, a figure greeted with alarm by unions which argue prevention is an important part of the emergency services’ work.

Matt Wrack from the Fire Brigades’ Union said: “Cuts to the number of fire safety inspectors are putting people at risk.

“These are the inspectors which audit hospitals, schools, offices and shops to check owners are complying with safety law. There’s little point in law and regulation if there’s no one available to enforce it.”

GMFRS was invited to comment on the local figures but had not responded as the paper went to press.