The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is questioning Suffolk County Council’s claims that it is focusing more attention on fire prevention work. The union says Suffolk’s spending on community fire service has gone into reverse since 2002.
Independent figures shows the county council has slipped from second place in England in terms of spending on community fire safety in 2002 to 35th place in 2004. The county would have to triple last year’s spending simply to match what it spent in 2002.
Industrial action ballot papers are being sent out to Suffolk fire crews over the next few days over plans to cut 12 frontline posts.
The council claims its plans mean it can focus on more fire prevention work. But the independent figures raise serious questions over whether that commitment is genuine.
“It is clear that spending on community fire safety has gone into reverse,” says Suffolk FBU chair Vince Jell.
“Having cut that spending they are now planning to cut 12 emergency response firefighter posts. Community safety work would be cut again, because these 12 firefighters have a dual role.
“Their claims do not add up, it is cuts all round, not improvements. Suffolk has one of the largest areas at risk from fires in England, but we spend less on the fire service than all other fire authorities.
“These are significant cuts for a small fire service. We are already 67 retained firefighters short and only have around 45 wholetime firefighters on duty at any one time.”