Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

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'No further cuts' urge MFRS Chief Fire Officer and Birkenhead MP

'No further cuts' urge MFRS Chief Fire Officer and Birkenhead MP

Friday, 11 January 2019

Birkenhead MP Frank Field and Merseyside’s Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan and have asked the fire services Minister Nick Hurd to confirm in the next funding settlement that there will be no further cuts to Merseyside’s fire and rescue service.

Frank and Phil met jointly with the Minister in Parliament this week to make the case against any further cuts.

They also:

• warned against any stealth cuts such as putting historic pension costs onto the fire service’s books;

• set out the numerous pressures, such as recruitment costs, retention challenges and PFI debts, being exerted on the service’s reserves;

• asked for Merseyside to receive stronger financial protection due to higher levels of deprivation in the region;

• asked the Minister to prioritise Government reinvestment in the fire and rescue services, particularly in the light of the Grenfell Tower fire and the heightened terrorist threat.

Phil said: "This was an important and productive meeting which begins a longer conversation with the Minister about the appropriate level of support provided by the Government to our fire and rescue service.

"We asked the Minister to fully consider the environment in which we are now operating and explained in great detail the cumulative impact that the cuts have had, and continue to have, on our ability to prevent and respond to emergencies, and protect our communities.

"Whilst we are extremely disappointed that the Minister has indicated that in-year changes wouldn’t be considered, we take some solace from the fact that the Minister listened to our concerns and committed to recognise our representations as part of the 2019 Comprehensive Spending Review. Further meetings are already planned to make good this commitment."

Frank said: "Merseyside’s fire and rescue service has received a raw deal since 2010, and has been disproportionately affected by the cuts. It is vital that no further cuts are made to its budget.

"What I hope this meeting will bring about, and which I will follow up in Parliament, is the beginning of a financial package which starts to ease some of the pressure on its budget and frees up additional resources for the frontline.

"As a next step, I will be seeking the Minister’s support towards paying off the PFI costs, so the service is able to ensure all of the resources it has at its disposal can be put towards protecting the public."

* Ahead of the meeting, Frank obtained data from the House of Commons Library showing that:

• government grant funding for Merseyside’s fire and rescue service, will have fallen by £13.7m from 2010/11 to 2019-20 a 50% reduction in real terms;

• as a result of the cuts that have been made since 2010, the number of firefighters in Merseyside will have fallen from 923 to 620, a 32% reduction;

• the number of fire engines fell from 42 to 26; and

• the time taken to respond to life risk incidents has increased by 35 seconds.

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