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Posted on 19 December 2011 at 12:34 GMT

Public 'disgust and shock' at fire service cuts

A letter of thanks to the Socialist Party

It is no secret that Britain's Fire and Rescue Services are today fighting a war of survival.

Over the last year alone, around 1,000 firefighter jobs have been lost, largely under the guise of 'natural wastage', but in other cases, by direct redundancy.

This is the equivalent of an entire brigade lost.

As zealous managers trip over themselves to show their ability to 'modernise' their respective services and Tory cuts begin to directly affect frontline operational service, we must ask ourselves if the 'Fire Cover Reviews' many brigades are now facing would be more honestly labelled 'Frontline Cut Opportunity Studies'.

Private consultation companies, circling like vultures over a potential corpse, quickly jump to the fore, and offer 'robust' public consultation documents for a mere 50,000 of taxpayers money.

And managers, eager for a document that will justify their ill thought out ideas, stump up the cash to these privateers willingly.

After a few months of phoney 'consulting', the company of privateers then presents the 'findings' of their work to the respective fire authority, which, funnily enough, shows that public opinion mirrors the thoughts of managers in that paradoxically, as the population grows, and drug and alcohol abuse becomes worse, that there is in fact less need for fire engines!

Apparently, we have too many fire engines, too many firefighters. And more surprisingly, despite the fire brigades being the most loved and respected of the emergency services, the public care not a jot that there won't be a fire engine in their town should they require one!

One can only assume that when asked in 'consultations', the public just throw caution to the wind and say 'yeah sure, get rid of the fire engine that I and my family may need someday, because I believe in Tory cuts'!

Strange then, that as 'consultations' are being carried out by managers wishing to cut frontline services, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), along with friends like those within the Socialist Party, are hearing different views when out petitioning the public, and informing them of the real effect of cuts to frontline services.

We hear words that express disgust and shock, not agreements that fire engines should be removed.

Indeed, the vast majority of the public are happy to sign petitions against such cuts, enabling FBU officials to present thousands and thousands of signatures to Fire Authority members expressing anger and disbelief that their fire services are to be cut.

In Nottinghamshire recently, the FBU presented petitions against cuts with signatures in their thousands, whereas the 'consultation privateers' had managed only to get the opinions of several hundred in a similar space of time.

What is important is that we were able to do this only with the help of organisations like the Socialist Party.

The members who actively supported us during this time are owed a great debt. We know that petitions are not the 'be all and end all' of anti-cuts campaigns, but they do allow us an opportunity to show councillors exactly what public opinion is, particularly where fire service cuts are concerned.

I would like to extend my thanks to the Mansfield branch of the Socialist Party, for their invaluable help during our anti-cuts campaign.

I should also like to encourage other members of the Socialist Party to contact their local FBU officials and offer them help in their own respective campaigns; Given our experience here in Nottinghamshire, they would be foolish to turn the Socialist Party away.

Sean Fleming, FBU Assistant Secretary, Nottinghamshire

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