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Firefighters accuse Tories of sneaking through severe cuts

FIREFIGHTERS have accused the Tories of sneaking through more severe cuts to fire and rescue services.

Central government funding for the services will fall by some £155 million in the coming financial year, according to analysis published today by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) following scrutiny of this year’s local government finance settlement announced at the end of January by Housing and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire.

The funding cut would represent a 15 per cent reduction since 2016-17 in addition to funding having been cut by 30 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

Demand for fire and rescue services has been increasing, but brigades have been struggling to cope with budget cuts and widespread station closures.

Last year, there was a 3 per cent increase in fires and a 1 per cent overall increase in incidents attended by firefighters. More than 45,000 people were rescued from dangerous situations, a 4 per cent increase on the year before. There has also been a 27 per cent increase in fatalities in the past nine years.

The FBU said that the figures cast doubt on Chancellor Philip Hammond’s claims, made in the last Budget, that the government was no longer pursuing austerity policies.

And the union says that the cuts also show that the government has no interest in learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “It is appalling that the government is trying to sneak through cuts to fire and rescue services with virtually no scrutiny.

“They are ramping up their austerity measures despite claiming that austerity is over.

“Nearly two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, this Tory government is still showing a complete disregard for public safety.

“A properly funded fire and rescue service is essential to protect our communities from fire and a wide range of other threats. These cuts are a danger to firefighters and a danger to the public.”

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