THE risk of families in Halesowen and Sandwell not being protected by the fire service will rise if Government cuts continue, it was claimed this week.

Chairman of the West Midlands Fire Authority Councillor John Edwards painted a bleak picture of the service’s future at Sandwell Council on Tuesday night.

The former firefighter made it clear a reduced number of civilian staff and firefighters “will see the risk to the public rise in the forthcoming years” as response times are increased if the fire service budget cut again.

Due to the freeze in recruiting firefighters coinciding with other staff retiring or leaving the service the number of firefighters will fall by hundreds in the space of four years.

In December the Government will announce the amount of money West Midlands Fire Service will get over the next two years.

Cllr Edwards said: “All we are asking for is not to have our budget cut, it is unfair that metropolitan authorities get cuts when shire forces like Cheshire, that Chancellor George Osborne represents, get budgets increased.”

Cllr Edwards pleaded for the public to think before calling none emergency call outs as they are a drain on resources.

He said: “I want people to think twice before calling us, we will always be there in an emergency but we get a lot of calls that are a waste of time. After all I have never seen a dead cat up a tree.”

Sandwell Council leader Cllr Darren Cooper called for a named vote to send a strongly worded letter condemning the cuts to the Government.

He said: “The cuts to our fire service are just typical of how this Government treats public services. I am proud that this borough still sees fit to vote Labour and not that shower that call themselves the Tories.”

In the final vote 67 councillors voted for the strongly worded letter to be sent, one Tory abstained and the other on the council voted against.