Essex: Firefighters Warn Of Cuts Danger

Firefighters from Essex will take part in a national protest later to warn of the "growing threat" to the fire service by Government austerity cuts.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is holding a demonstration in Westminster to raise awareness of the "deep damage" inflicted by cutbacks on spending.

A long-running dispute between the fire service in Essex and FBU ended last month after crews voted to accept terms, following several strikes and industrial action by firefighters across the summer and autumn months.

The union said around 1,500 frontline jobs have been axed since 2010, with plans for a further 6,000 losses by 2015.

The FBU warned that 17 fire stations faced closure in London, with dozens more under threat across the country.

General secretary Matt Wrack said: "Fire stations and fire engines are under threat. We need to call a halt, and get people to speak up for the service that protects them. When you're fighting fires, every second counts.

"The Government is acting as if it has nothing to do with it. It's all down to the local fire service, but it's the Government that's slashing budgets so fire authorities haven't got what they need to provide the service the public deserve.

"That means stations will close, fire engines will be axed and firefighters' jobs will go if planned cuts go ahead unchallenged."

The union, which is organising a lobby of MPs after a rally today, said the fire service was already "cut to the bone".

But a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "The FBU is wrong and trying to scare the public with its partisan campaigning. It is disgraceful to suggest that sensible savings cannot be made in areas like procurement, joint working and tackling outdated working practices.

"Their wilful scare-mongering overlooks that fire-related deaths and arson have been falling and continue to fall.

"Every part of the public sector needs to play its part in cutting the deficit we have inherited from the last administration. Contrary to the FBU claims, we have protected frontline uniformed services as much as possible.

"Fire and rescue authorities only need to make savings of 2.2% of their spending in 2011-12 and just 0.5% in 2012-13. There is significant scope to deliver these without harming the quality and breadth of the service that the public receive."