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12/03/2014 - Fire Services at "crisis point"

fireengineFire authorities across England and Wales are at "crisis point" due to government funding cuts. The cuts mean they are unable to respond to national emergencies according to a warning from local authorities.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, said authorities are starting the new financial year with a third less cash from central government than four years ago.

And a further 10 per cent cut has been earmarked for 2015/16.

The LGA say that the funding gap of a typical authority was increasing by £3 million a year and this hole is set to reach £17.5m by 2020.

Millions of pounds have already been saved by changing shift arrangements, cutting firefighter jobs, freezing recruitment and pay and cutting back-office costs, it added.

Kay Hammond, LGA's fire services management committee chairwoman, warned that further funding cuts could heavily impact on the ability of the 46 fire services in England and Wales to perform effectively.

The LGA warned that a typical authority was one "on the brink of a crisis," being "backed into a corner" by funding cuts.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "The LGA is right to say that fire and rescue services must be given the funding to play a key, continued role in national resilience.

"But it's clear that across the country cuts are already slowing emergency response times, impacting on critical services and endangering lives."

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, said:

"The FBU are right to highlight the danger to lives which these cuts to our essential services cause. The recent tragic death of Mr Maurice Cunliffe may well have been prevented if his local firestation in Woolwich had not been closed by Boris Johnson just two months before. If a State is unable to provide effective basic services you have to wonder what legitimacy it has."