Fire authority chief paints bleak picture of future

First published in News

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.

Comments (6)

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5:24pm Wed 10 Oct 12

Cllr Ray Burston says...

Remind me again which political party's Treasury spokesman left behind a note to his successor to the effect that his party had spent all the nation's money and now there was none left.

Might that perchance have some bearing on why police and fire services in this country are now having such a hard time financially.
Remind me again which political party's Treasury spokesman left behind a note to his successor to the effect that his party had spent all the nation's money and now there was none left. Might that perchance have some bearing on why police and fire services in this country are now having such a hard time financially. Cllr Ray Burston
  • Score: 0

8:36pm Wed 10 Oct 12

I G Cooper says...

Ray - good to see you're not hiding between an alias this time.

Can you remind us who's getting an increase in fire authority funding? It's millionaire Chancellor - George Osborne, who, while we're at it is cutting taxes for the rich and paying each wages millionaire a rebate of £40,000 in April.

When someone dies because of these cuts will you then have the audacity to say we're all in it together?
Ray - good to see you're not hiding between an alias this time. Can you remind us who's getting an increase in fire authority funding? It's millionaire Chancellor - George Osborne, who, while we're at it is cutting taxes for the rich and paying each wages millionaire a rebate of £40,000 in April. When someone dies because of these cuts will you then have the audacity to say we're all in it together? I G Cooper
  • Score: 0

11:08pm Wed 10 Oct 12

Cllr Ray Burston says...

Apologies in advance for this long reply, but I think it is important to remind readers that every fire authority in England and Wales is up in arms about the funding of its fire and rescue services.

For example, Simon Herbert, Chairman of East Sussex Fire Brigades Union, has slammed the 'cuts' he has highlighted to the local fire authority's budget. Hopefully, remembering that East Sussex's MPs include Cabinet ministers Greg Barker and Norman Baker will dispel Ian Cooper's wild assertation that this is all some class war conspiracy on the part of the Coalition Government.

However, if that fails to do the trick then recall that closer to home the Shropshire Star of March 22nd 2012 reported local MP Owen Patterson condemning the 'unfair deal' that the county's fire authority had received. Remind me, Ian, which political party this particular rising start in the Cabinet belongs.

Meanwhile, Oxfordshire Fire Brigades Union put out a press release deploring the way 'cuts' to its fire authority budget were putting at risk outlying fire stations and retained firefighters. Remind me, Ian, which party Oxfordshire's most famous member of Parliament happens to lead. (However, in fairness I should point out that press release http://www.fbur12.or
g.uk/2010/01/21/oxfo
rdshire-cuts-propose
d/ was actually issued in early 2010 and the local FBU were condemning cuts to the nation's firefighters being instigated by Labour as part of Alistair Darling's attempts to get to grips with the burgeoning national debt that his party had run up!

Finally, Labour Chairman of Cheshire Fire Authority, Cllr John Joyce, is quoted as saying “We have an excellent track record for coming up with new and innovative ways to improve safety and that willingness to change and do things differently will be essential as we face up to the funding cuts.” So he obviously doesn't share Ian Cooper's view about any supposed largesse to Cheshire on account of having the Chancellor-of-the-Ex
chequer as a local MP.

The simple fact is that if you are protecting spending on the NHS (as the Coalition is doing, and as Labour also promised at the 2010 election) then the cuts necessary to turn around the dire economic mess the Coalition inherited have to fall elsewhere. Hence why fire authorities like ours here in the West Midlands find their budgets under pressure.

Yet it is easy to make emotive accusations about people dying. Far harder to knuckle down and actually examine what local fire brigades can do to effect savings whilst delivering services more effectively - as Labour-controlled Merseyside Fire Authority already has, cutting fire-related deaths whilst slimming down the brigade's headcount and redeploying its firefighters to do more effect work like, such as fire preventing education.

The West Midlands Fire Authority embarked on a similar review when under Conservative control last year and I remain confident that the scare-mongering of Sandwell Labour councillors will not deflect fire chiefs from that important work.

But then, as we witnessed at Labour's party conference last week, so many of its movers-and-shakers from Ed Miliband down have still not progressed beyond the pavlovian response of yelling 'Tory cuts', possessing neither the humility to acknowledge how we got to this mess nor the insight to perceive how we can get the country out of it again.
Apologies in advance for this long reply, but I think it is important to remind readers that every fire authority in England and Wales is up in arms about the funding of its fire and rescue services. For example, Simon Herbert, Chairman of East Sussex Fire Brigades Union, has slammed the 'cuts' he has highlighted to the local fire authority's budget. Hopefully, remembering that East Sussex's MPs include Cabinet ministers Greg Barker and Norman Baker will dispel Ian Cooper's wild assertation that this is all some class war conspiracy on the part of the Coalition Government. However, if that fails to do the trick then recall that closer to home the Shropshire Star of March 22nd 2012 reported local MP Owen Patterson condemning the 'unfair deal' that the county's fire authority had received. Remind me, Ian, which political party this particular rising start in the Cabinet belongs. Meanwhile, Oxfordshire Fire Brigades Union put out a press release deploring the way 'cuts' to its fire authority budget were putting at risk outlying fire stations and retained firefighters. Remind me, Ian, which party Oxfordshire's most famous member of Parliament happens to lead. (However, in fairness I should point out that press release http://www.fbur12.or g.uk/2010/01/21/oxfo rdshire-cuts-propose d/ was actually issued in early 2010 and the local FBU were condemning cuts to the nation's firefighters being instigated by Labour as part of Alistair Darling's attempts to get to grips with the burgeoning national debt that his party had run up! Finally, Labour Chairman of Cheshire Fire Authority, Cllr John Joyce, is quoted as saying “We have an excellent track record for coming up with new and innovative ways to improve safety and that willingness to change and do things differently will be essential as we face up to the funding cuts.” So he obviously doesn't share Ian Cooper's view about any supposed largesse to Cheshire on account of having the Chancellor-of-the-Ex chequer as a local MP. The simple fact is that if you are protecting spending on the NHS (as the Coalition is doing, and as Labour also promised at the 2010 election) then the cuts necessary to turn around the dire economic mess the Coalition inherited have to fall elsewhere. Hence why fire authorities like ours here in the West Midlands find their budgets under pressure. Yet it is easy to make emotive accusations about people dying. Far harder to knuckle down and actually examine what local fire brigades can do to effect savings whilst delivering services more effectively - as Labour-controlled Merseyside Fire Authority already has, cutting fire-related deaths whilst slimming down the brigade's headcount and redeploying its firefighters to do more effect work like, such as fire preventing education. The West Midlands Fire Authority embarked on a similar review when under Conservative control last year and I remain confident that the scare-mongering of Sandwell Labour councillors will not deflect fire chiefs from that important work. But then, as we witnessed at Labour's party conference last week, so many of its movers-and-shakers from Ed Miliband down have still not progressed beyond the pavlovian response of yelling 'Tory cuts', possessing neither the humility to acknowledge how we got to this mess nor the insight to perceive how we can get the country out of it again. Cllr Ray Burston
  • Score: 0

2:18pm Fri 12 Oct 12

I G Cooper says...

Ray – from your response and the comments selected, it’s clear that Cameron is not bringing his party along with his cuts agenda. This helps explain how a media celebrity like Boris can be seriously touted as your next leader.

As you know, fire authorities and the public sector as a whole are working with what they’re given to come up with imaginative ways to lessen the cuts impact on frontline services. We expect nothing less than this dedication from our public services.

Reshaping those services for the 21st century is all well and good but when they are facing such massive and rapid cuts, services will be lost in the resulting mayhem. The Tories are not protecting the NHS. It is being forced into making £20 billion of savings before the next election, set against a top-down reorganisation, which the Tories did not include in their manifesto, costing an estimated £3 billion. As a result - 5,500 less nurses than in 2010.

Your ideology – tax cuts for the rich (a yearly £40,000 tax cut for a wage millionaire), plain old cuts for the rest of us. As ever, it's the Tories who are obsessed with class – that is, protecting their elite chums at the expense of us all (“plebs” I think we’re called!). Last week Ed Milliband outlined an optimistic vision for a fairer society where all are included – contrast this with Cameron’s dour and uninspired take-it or leave-it threat of more of the same, or inevitable decline.
Ray – from your response and the comments selected, it’s clear that Cameron is not bringing his party along with his cuts agenda. This helps explain how a media celebrity like Boris can be seriously touted as your next leader. As you know, fire authorities and the public sector as a whole are working with what they’re given to come up with imaginative ways to lessen the cuts impact on frontline services. We expect nothing less than this dedication from our public services. Reshaping those services for the 21st century is all well and good but when they are facing such massive and rapid cuts, services will be lost in the resulting mayhem. The Tories are not protecting the NHS. It is being forced into making £20 billion of savings before the next election, set against a top-down reorganisation, which the Tories did not include in their manifesto, costing an estimated £3 billion. As a result - 5,500 less nurses than in 2010. Your ideology – tax cuts for the rich (a yearly £40,000 tax cut for a wage millionaire), plain old cuts for the rest of us. As ever, it's the Tories who are obsessed with class – that is, protecting their elite chums at the expense of us all (“plebs” I think we’re called!). Last week Ed Milliband outlined an optimistic vision for a fairer society where all are included – contrast this with Cameron’s dour and uninspired take-it or leave-it threat of more of the same, or inevitable decline. I G Cooper
  • Score: 0

7:09pm Fri 12 Oct 12

Sam Vimes says...

Is it not the case that the government cut the budgets but it's the Fire Authorities cutting the jobs? Then blaming the government for cutting the jobs? Has everyone on the Fire Authority taken a pay cut from their various allowances to soften the blow?
How many Fire Authority jobs will be going?
Is it not the case that the government cut the budgets but it's the Fire Authorities cutting the jobs? Then blaming the government for cutting the jobs? Has everyone on the Fire Authority taken a pay cut from their various allowances to soften the blow? How many Fire Authority jobs will be going? Sam Vimes
  • Score: 0

1:47pm Sat 13 Oct 12

The Mayor says...

Wouldn't it be nice if the councillors on the fire authority as well as our councils agreed to take a cut in their more than generous allowances - of course they won't, cuts everywhere else but their fat wallets are protected. Take Dudley where we had the secret vote on a 25% increase on their allowances. Now with the borough in continual decline, they're arguing about Freedom of the Borough Awards. Perhaps we should scrap fire authority politicians completely and let the professional fire staff manage the budget.
Wouldn't it be nice if the councillors on the fire authority as well as our councils agreed to take a cut in their more than generous allowances - of course they won't, cuts everywhere else but their fat wallets are protected. Take Dudley where we had the secret vote on a 25% increase on their allowances. Now with the borough in continual decline, they're arguing about Freedom of the Borough Awards. Perhaps we should scrap fire authority politicians completely and let the professional fire staff manage the budget. The Mayor
  • Score: 0

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