Fire minister to visit Merseyside

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Merseyside Fire & Rescue © Flickr/Harrypope

Merseyside Fire & Rescue © Flickr/Harrypope

The government’s newly appointed fire minister Brandon Lewis has declared that he will visit Merseyside to discuss the impact of the potentially devastating funding cuts.

Mr Lewis, who took up the post of fire minister in September, confirmed he would come to the city this year in response to a letter he received from Merseyside MPs explaining that the impact of the cuts on front-line services would put the public at risk.

Merseyside chief fire officer Dan Stephens said: “I welcome the fact that the minister has agreed to visit Merseyside so we can show him first hand the excellent work of the service.”

Councillor Dave Hanratty, Chairman of Merseyside Fire Authority told JMU Journalism: “I am glad that the Minister has accepted our invitation to visit Merseyside Fire Service.

“We will take the opportunity to explain to the Minister the impact the government cuts have on our operation resource and community safety and prevention work which is at the heart of keeping the residents of Merseyside safer.

“We will endeavour to impress upon him the need to examine closely the efficiencies already undertaken by MFS over the last 10 years and the excellent work our staff carry out on a daily basis.”

He added: “Our budget was cut in 2011/13 by £9.2m which was twice the national average which resulted in our service cutting fire-fighter posts by 95. The next two years will see further reductions in government funding by £10m which will see reductions in our front line fire fighters by a further 90 posts, back office and support functions cut by £7m.

Fire crews at the scene of the Hard Day's Night Hotel fire. Pic Jill Mathews

Fire crews at the scene of the Hard Day’s Night Hotel blaze. Pic Jill Mathews

“It will impact on our community safety and prevention programme as well as removing a further seven fire appliances out of service, which will mean Merseyside have reduced from 42 fire appliance to 28 over the four-year period; a reduction of 33%. Fire fighter posts would have reduced by 50% since 2001.”

The Liverpool Echo’s ‘Don’t Play With Fire’ campaign revealed last year that a government funding cull could see Merseyside’s fire budget stripped by as much as £17m from 2014, leading to the potential closure of up to ten stations on Merseyside, along with 20 engines and up to 150 fire fighters.

Speaking to JMU Journalism, Cllr Hanratty said: “With taking these facts into consideration we have to stress to the Minister, that we are an effective and efficient service and there are serious concerns about our ability to respond to multiple, or any sustained major incident. We have to express our concerns of the strain this will not only place on the service, but also those fire fighters who will be placed under a great pressures if not managed appropriately.

“I don’t believe that the government has undertaken any risk assessment or analyse of the implications of these cuts and would be calling on the Minister to carefully consider our current position and on Merseyside Fire services ability to respond to all future emergencies, as well as continuing with a proactive community safety and prevention programme.”

It is thought that the fire minister, Mr Lewis, will visit on June 6.

About Rachael Laird, JMU Journalism