Union claims public is being “misled” over Essex fire cuts


- Credit: Archant

The public has been provided with “skewed information” according to Essex Firefighters - ahead of proposed cuts of up to £20million.

The Essex branch of the Fire Brigade Union has warned that plans for the future of the county’s brigade are being based on national rather than local trends.

It says that while the national trend is a decline in the number of house fires and casualties, in Essex there has actually been a slight rise.

It claims that consultation on the strategy guiding Essex County Fire and Rescue Service in Essex for the next five years provided skewed information to the public.

The service’s Integrated Risk Management Plan, better known as its 2020 Programme, suggested that house fires had fallen in the county.

But the FBU has claimed other government statistics painted a different picture in Essex.

It states that this could change people’s attitudes to possible cuts to the service. The brigade faces an estimated £15-20million cut in government funding over the next five years, though more specific details will be revealed in the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review next month.

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The FBU presented their findings at a meeting of the Essex Fire Authority yesterday (Wednesday, October 7.)

Mav Langdon, for the FBU, said: “These figures have been carefully selected to choose the highest reductions possible to support a pre-determined outcome. The statistics speak for themselves and people can look at the figures and decide for themselves. These are not our figures, they are the government’s.

“People deserve a choice.”

Branch chairman Riccardo La Torre added: “The public is being asked to make decisions based on the national trends, but in Essex these type of fires are not going down at all.

“New targets such as response time standards are under current crewing model, without removing any fire pumps or stations as could be proposed.

“There is no hiding from the fact we have a real financial challenge coming up. We do understand the brigade won’t look like it has done in the past.

The Essex Fire and Rescue Service has said specific plans and the issues raised would be addressed in a second consultation planned for later this year, though the union says the mandate for the later consultation will be set by the first – meaning it needs to be right.

Jamie Wyatt, regional FBU secretary for East Anglia, said: “If someone asked you ‘Should we spend more on cancer prevention or research’ you would not expect if you say ‘yes’ that cancer treatment wards are closed down.”