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'We won't compromise on safety' - firefighters demand urgent improvements to service

PUBLISHED: 11:47 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:47 28 June 2019

Phil Johnston, chairman of Suffolk's Fire Brigades Union. The union is demanding widespread improvements to the county's fire and rescue service. Picture: Archant

Phil Johnston, chairman of Suffolk's Fire Brigades Union. The union is demanding widespread improvements to the county's fire and rescue service. Picture: Archant

Archant

Public safety is being put at risk as a result of widespread cutbacks to fire service funding, according to firefighters.

Suffolk's branch of the Fire Brigades Union is demanding widespread improvements to the county's fire and rescue service. Picture: Nick ButcherSuffolk's branch of the Fire Brigades Union is demanding widespread improvements to the county's fire and rescue service. Picture: Nick Butcher

The warning over "deteriorating standards" comes as Suffolk's fire responders call on the county's fire authority and council to urgently improve the service.

As it makes a series of demands, Suffolk's branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has launched its 'Rescue Suffolk Fire' campaign to highlight "years of ignored warnings about the effect of funding cuts."

Response times in Suffolk are currently the slowest in the East of England and some fire engines are marshalled by just three firefighters when called out.

According to published FBU research, firefighter jobs in the county have been cut by 21pc since 2010, while central government funding has been slashed by 18pc since 2016/17.

Suffolk's branch of the Fire Brigades Union is demanding widespread improvements to the county's fire and rescue service. Picture: Nick ButcherSuffolk's branch of the Fire Brigades Union is demanding widespread improvements to the county's fire and rescue service. Picture: Nick Butcher

Phil Johnston, chairman of the Suffolk FBU, said: "For years now, firefighters in Suffolk have warned about deteriorating standards, while management have ignored their concerns.

"Enough is enough - we won't compromise on the safety of our community or our firefighters.

"Fire cuts in Suffolk have simply gone too far - residents now face a postcode lottery of public safety in the East of England. The lives of people in Suffolk are worth no less than those in neighbouring counties."

Among the FBU's demands is a commitment to a minimum of five firefighters per engine and an improved response time that does not compromise firefighter safety.

Mark Hardingham, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Services chief fire officer, says the county is a safe place from a fire service perspective.
Picture: Mick HowesMark Hardingham, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Services chief fire officer, says the county is a safe place from a fire service perspective. Picture: Mick Howes

The union is also insisting frontline services are prioritised ahead of "back-room projects" and that firefighters are trained as part of their day-to-day jobs - rather than on days off.

As firefighters ask the public to sign a statement of support, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service's chief fire officer, Mark Hardingham, called the county a "safe place from a fire service perspective".

"I'm very proud of our service and of the firefighters, officers and non-operational staff who work tirelessly for local communities," he said. "And, as chief fire officer, I am committed to both public and firefighter safety.

"If you need the fire service in an emergency, dial 999 and the right number of professional, trained firefighters will respond from your nearest fire stations - and on average will arrive within about 10 minutes."

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