Suffolk firefighters take funding demands to MPs in Westminster
PUBLISHED: 11:26 08 July 2019 | UPDATED: 19:30 08 July 2019
Members of the Suffolk branch of the Fire Brigades' Union have visited Westminster to campaign for more funding for the county - demanding a restoration of cut services.
They lobbied MPs at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament in a bid to ensure the county gets more support from government.
They issued a series of demands to improve their work in the county. They want Suffolk to:
Commit to a minimum of five firefighters on every fire engine, ending three-person crewing
Improve emergency response times in Suffolk without compromising the safety of firefighters
Prioritise funding of frontline emergency response services rather than back-room projects
Ensure firefighters are properly trained and that risk-critical training is part of a firefighter's day-to-day job
Listen to the warnings and concerns of firefighters and their elected representatives
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Phil Johnston, FBU Suffolk brigade chair, said: "For years now, firefighters in Suffolk have warned about deteriorating standards in our fire and rescue service, while management have ignored their concerns. Enough is enough - we won't compromise on the safety of our community or our firefighters.
"Fire cuts in Suffolk have simply gone too far - residents now face a postcode lottery of public safety in the East of England. The lives of people in Suffolk are worth no less than those in neighbouring counties"
The union says that response times in Suffolk are currently the slowest in the East of England and that firefighter jobs in the county have been cut by 21% since 2010, while central government funding has been cut by 18% since 2016/17.
Following the meeting, Mr Johnston said he felt the meeting went well, and that their concerns were listened to.
He said Thérèse Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, was going to raise the issue in parliament.
However, he said only time would tell whether MPs would follow through and take action on the issues raised.
Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham, said: "I'm very proud of our fire and rescue service and of the firefighters, officers and non-operational staff who work tirelessly for local communities.
"Suffolk is a safe place to live, work and travel from a fire service perspective and as Chief Fire Officer I am committed to both public and firefighter safety.
"If you ever need the fire service in an emergency then dial 999 and the right number of professional, trained firefighters will respond from your nearest fire stations - and on average will arrive within about 10 minutes of being alerted.
"Fire inspectors have just completed an independent inspection of our fire service, as part of their national inspections of all services. They commented on the positive and professional engagement they experienced in Suffolk and we look forward to receiving their findings later this year."