Budget 2021: fire and rescue could be unable to face growing challenges
A lack of new funding for fire and rescue in the Budget and Spending Review could leave fire and rescue unable to deal with growing challenges including climate change, according to the Fire Brigades Union.
The Budget and Spending Review contained no significant new central government funding commitments for fire and rescue services. This is despite concerns over lack of resource with regards to existing challenges alone, with response times increasing for every type of fire in England since 2010. Services have seen unprecedented funding cuts; central funding in England has been slashed by £400m since 2013-14, and UK firefighter numbers having fallen by a fifth since 2010.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said:
“Austerity has cut fire and rescue to the bone and this Budget and the Spending Review does nothing to fix this situation. A threadbare fire and rescue service is not able to deal with the challenges it currently faces today, let alone taking into account the bigger challenges that concerns like climate change will pose in the future. The government has utterly failed to look ahead and ensure that it is providing enough funding for a professional, effective fire and rescue service as we go forward.
“The fire and rescue service must be able to provide for every member of the community – but the government is failing to fund it to do that.”
Climate change is set to bring about a rising challenge to firefighters because they are on the frontline against floods and wildfires, both of which climate change will increase the risk of. In 2014, the UN’s IPCC said that climate change could increase the annual cost of flooding in the UK 15-fold by the 2080s. Furthermore, researchers have found that “once-in-a-century” UK wildfire threats could happen most years by 2100.
Firefighters are bitterly disappointed to have seen no concrete investment commitments on funding pay in the Budget and Spending Review, despite high levels of inflation. Firefighters have already lost around 12% of their pay in real terms over the last decade.
Commenting on this Matt Wrack said:
“Firefighters carry out lifesaving work and have taken on extra work to help combat the pandemic. The least the government could do is reward them properly. On the one hand, the government ask the public to clap for key workers, and on the other, they are failing to improve the pay of those same workers, including firefighters.”
This year’s Spending Review was a particularly significant one, as it applies from 2022-3 all the way to 2024-5 – past the next election.
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Falls in firefighter numbers – https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2021/10/05/new-job-cut-figures-firefighters-might-not-be-able-fight-all-fires
Falls in firefighter pay – https://www.fbu.org.uk/publications/fbu-submission-comprehensive-spending-review-2021
IPCC statistic on cost of flooding increase – https://www.carbonbrief.org/how-much-flooding-is-in-the-uks-future-a-look-at-the-ipcc-report
Wildfire threats statistic – https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR855435.aspx