Fire service protests against cuts

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The Merseyside Fire Service prepares for the worst ©

A Merseyside delegation has met with the Government’s newly appointed fire minister in a last-ditch attempt to lobby against debilitating cuts to their front-line fire service.

The delegation which included Chief Fire Officer, Dan Stephens, city councillor Dave Hanratty and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson addressed the MP for Great Yarmouth, Brandon Lewis on the proposed cuts facing the regions fire service.

Chief Fire Officer, Dan Stephens told JMU Journalism the outcome of the meeting was “predictably predicable” and that the minister stuck by the Government line, reinforcing that harsh cuts still need to be levied.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service could now face multi-million pound cuts from 2013-15 with speculation that up to 150 firefighters, 20 engines and even 10 stations could face the axe across the region.

The local authority faces a financial conundrum ahead of December’s projected public sector spending overhaul after it received the worst Government Formula Grant cut for any fire authority in the country for 2011/12 and 2012/13.

Mr Stephens lamented the unsustainable extent of the situation facing Merseyside and he explained how the devastating cuts to his force are beginning to take their toll.

He told JMU Journalism: “Up until recently we’ve managed to cope with the cuts, but now it’s affecting our capability to provide an efficient service. We’re no longer able to manage and it’s beginning to have a detrimental impact.

Merseyside firemen ©

“I recognise that there’s a deficit challenge that the Government has to meet but I know there are areas of the public sector that have not suffered any cuts at all. In comparison, our fire and rescue services have suffered substantial cuts; I just don’t believe that is a fair and equitable way to manage deficit reduction.”

Mr Stephens said that over the last decade the Merseyside Fire and Rescue has reduced firefighter numbers by over 500, around 40% of their total workforce, delivering the biggest efficiency record of any fire service in the country.

He added: “I think the cuts are going to have a very serious and detrimental impact. We can’t keep making extra cuts to some of these support services, there’s no way given the scale of the cuts. It may well be that many fire stations will have to close down as a result.”

A petition has also been launched in opposition to the cuts to the service with keen support from Wavertree MP Luciana Berger and various local celebrities, with city Major Joe Anderson is urging everyone in Merseyside to sign the petition and offer their support.

About Joshua Nevett, JMU Journalism