During my time as MP, I have been in regular contact with our city’s fire service. They do an amazing job, which in my opinion is being consistently underappreciated and underfunded by this Government.
In May, I was at the Firefighters Memorial Day at Stanground Fire Station, and during the minute’s silence I simply thought to myself: when on earth will we start protecting those who protect us?
During the summer, I liaised with the firefighters in Dogsthorpe to take a visit to Norwood Lane, a site that suffered from widespread fly-tipping and subsequent fires during the warm weather. The amount of effort they put into extinguishing these on a regular basis, while liaising with residents and ensuring their safety, was absolutely outstanding.
That being said, I learned that due to fire services being overstretched in our city, these incidents were often using up the little manpower they had, and therefore potentially putting others at risk.
To me, it is unacceptable that our Government offer our fire service so little that they are overstretched in this way.
Not only this, but in real-terms with inflation taken into account, firefighters have actually had their pay slashed over the last eight years. I have no doubt that those in other vital emergency services will recognise this story all too well. For the risks they take, for their commitment and dedication to the safety of our communities, they should at least expect pay that will afford them and their families a decent standard of living.
All the Government seems to do is offer lip-service - there is no true action or recognition for the lifesaving work that our fire service does on a regular basis. And as well as fighting fires, they’re having to fight for fair funding at the same time. 11,000 frontline jobs have been cut since 2010, and the FBU estimate fire and rescue services are facing a 20% cut during the government’s term, after already suffering a 30% cut in the last one!
This has resulted in closed stations and decreased manpower, and an impromptu visit to the Cambridgeshire Fire Service emphasised the dire situation to me even more when I saw the number of repairs needed to their place of work.
By slashing their funding in this way, the government’s austerity agenda is putting lives at risk on a daily basis, and despite the Prime Minister claiming that “austerity is over”, there was nothing in the Budget for our fire service, nor for regular policing.
The onus of who pays for this government’s economic policies has been shifted onto our emergency services for far too long. It is beyond me how they can be treated with such disdain as lifesavers of the community.
It’s time the Government took their heads out of the sand and fund our fire and rescue services properly. They have enough battles to fight on a daily basis: they should not have to fight in Westminster as well.