A fairer funding settlement for fire and rescue services should be implemented for the period 2013-15, writes Bridget Phillipson MP.
388 people died in 2010-11 as a result of fire in Britain. This is a dramatic reduction from the high of 1,096 in 1979. Over the last 10 years the number of fires attended by the fire and rescue services has continued to fall. This success story is down to the hard work of men and women in our Fire and Rescue Service.
Today, in Parliament I will call on the fire minister, to implement a fairer funding settlement across Fire and Rescue Services for the period 2013 - 15. In the Spending Review 2010 the government reduced formula grant funding for Fire and Rescue Authorities -5.8% in 2010-11 and a further -0.7% in 2012-13. Larger reductions will happen in years three and four to meet an overall 25% reduction in funding.
Many in Parliament have questioned how equal the cuts to Fire and Rescue Authorities were. On average Metropolitan Authorities, - Mets - West Midlands, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Tyne and Wear, have shouldered the biggest burden. On average Metropolitan Authorities, have had an above average national cut in grant funding of 12%.
In Tyne and Wear we've seen a recruitment freeze on firefighters for the last two years in addition to the loss of 68 full time firefighters. We suffer from high levels of unemployment and low wages making us one of the highest risk areas, yet we've been hardest hit by government cuts. I am concerned that this will put the public and firefighters in danger.
Under the government's future planned spending cuts, preventative work will suffer. In Tyne and Wear, the efforts in preventative work – installing fire alarms, speaking to children in the community has led to the number of primary fires being reduced by more than 50 per cent between 2005/06 and 2010/11 despite a decrease in the number of firefighters.
I'm proud of the role Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service plays in contributing to our nation's Fire and Rescue resilience capability. The Mets contain the majority of UK Urban Search and Rescue teams, and Detection, Identification and Monitoring Vehicles, a third of Incident Response Units and a quarter of our nation's High Volume Pumps. Although these assets are funded separately by the Government, the support personnel and backup to operate these vital bits of equipment are in danger of being lost. Further deep cuts will damage our nation's capacity to respond to threats faced from national disasters such as flooding, civil disorder, biological or chemical spills, and terrorist incidents.
Over the last thirty years the Fire and Rescue Service have done tremendous work reducing the number of fire incidents, increasing awareness of fire in local communities and by installing smoke alarms.
We need a fair and equitable settlement that does not jeopardise the progress made through preventive work or put in danger the communities which our Fire and Rescue Service protect. It is in everyone's interests that we find a solution to this crisis before it's too late. It takes only a short time to weaken frontline services and demoralise firefighters, but a long time to restore them.
Bridget Phillipson is the Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South.