‘Fund our fire service’ – Herts union calls on county council after a decade of cuts

Firefighters look on.

Firefighters look on. - Credit: Archant

The Hertfordshire Fire Brigade Union has backed a national campaign calling on local authorities and central government to properly fund the service following years of austerity.

Herts County Council member Joshua Bennett Lovell says plans for The Barclay School in Stevenage are 'worrying'.

Herts County Council member Joshua Bennett Lovell says plans for The Barclay School in Stevenage are 'worrying'. - Credit: Archant

The “Fund the Frontline” campaign seeks funding to employ and train thousands of new firefighters immediately to undo the loss of 11,237 staff over the last decade.

The local branch of the union has said following austerity cuts the loss in Herts has been huge.

Daren Scotchford, the secretary of the Hertfordshire branch of the FBU, said: “Across Hertfordshire we have lost over 100 firefighter posts since 2010 – a massive cut of 12 per cent.

“The reality now is that my colleagues are less safe when responding to incidents. When firefighting staff are less safe, so are the public.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic we have continued responding to fire and rescue incidents, providing community support and checking on vulnerable residents. We have also been supporting the NHS by providing firefighters to drive emergency ambulances.

“Other pressures also remain. Climate change is a huge issue for the fire and rescue service. As we approach the winter months crews in Hertfordshire are already responding to localised flooding. Wetter winters and hotter summers increase pressure on already stretched resources.

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“Herts County Council and the government need to act now and fund the frontline.”

The campaign has also been backed by Labour county councillor for Stevenage Old Town, Joshua Bennett Lovell.

He said: “Conservative governance since 2010 continues to wreak havoc on our communities. Year-on-year, the pot of money councils have to spend on vital resources is shrinking, leading to unsafe working conditions, and unsafe communities. These cuts must be reversed.”

Last year, the Herts FBU and Labour Groups campaigned to stop the removal of the fifth firefighter crew member on fire engines, during the review of fire safety risks conducted by Hertfordshire County Council.

While the campaign lost, the two groups pledged to campaign for this decision to be reversed.

Councillor Lovell added: “Alongside the local FBU, I am calling on Herts County Council and the national government to back our fire and rescue service and give it the money it needs to fill all lost posts since 2010 – and reinstate the fifth crew member on fire engines in Hertfordshire. Members of the public can likewise get involved by writing to our MPs and downloading online resources on the following link https://www.fbu.org.uk/fund-the-frontline.”

Herts County Councillor Terry Hone, cabinet member for community safety, added: “The County Council, as the Fire Authority in Hertfordshire, is required to produce an Integrated Risk Management Plan. The latest Risk Management Plan was published in 2019 and provides a clear rationale for the way in which the Authority proposes to balance Fire Prevention, Fire Protection and Emergency Response – there was a full consultation process undertaken prior to approval of the Plan and this did take account of the feedback received during the consultation process.”

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