Surrey firefighters set for industrial action as council votes to back cuts

Firefighters in Surrey are set to ballot for industrial action after councillors voted to remove seven fire engines and cut 70 jobs in the county.

Members of Surrey County Council voted to back the controversial ‘Making Surrey Safer Plan’ by 46 to 11, with five abstentions.

This was despite a 13,000-strong petition – the most signatures on a Surrey petition in a decade – calling for an end to the drastic cuts to night-time fire cover across the county, and 68% of respondents to the official consultation opposed cuts to fire cover, with just 18% approving.

Surrey FBU brigade secretary Lee Belsten last night told councillors : “Are you listening to your constituents? Your residents? Your firefighters? The community has cried out against these dangerous cuts. We must not be ignored.

“It’s ludicrous to claim the service is able to mitigate any increased risk through prevention alone, while gutting emergency response. There is clear evidence that the number of fires in homes remains consistent, regardless of the number of home fire safety checks.

“They are claiming that the service will continue to meet its’ standard response times – a standard that Surrey Fire has never been able to consistently achieve since it was downgraded in 2011. Surrey already cannot meet their standard with existing resources – and these cuts will only make things worse.”

Surrey’s Chief Fire Officer has claimed that carrying out more preventative work will vastly reduce the number of dwelling fires on the same day, despite recent evidence that existing fire prevention capabilities have little impact on fires in homes.

Fire prevention posts have been cut significantly since 2010, with fire safety audits falling over the same period. The FBU believes that these positions should be reinstated alongside emergency response capabilities, with the impact assessed after five years.

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