Fire service underfunding

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Sir: I write in response to your coverage of the Audit Commission report on the Fire Service, In the Line of Fire ("Brigades given no cash incentive to prevent fires", 7 February).

The Fire Brigades Union welcomes the report's official recognition of the 55 per cent increase in our workload over the past decade, against a background of serious underfunding and no increase in staffing. We have warned ministers time and time again of the dangers of this deteriorating position. The commission identifies the "growing financial problems" as one of three major issues affecting the fire service. We agree that this boils down to inadequate funding.

It is the efforts of "courageous front-line staff" which have enabled the national response standards for fires to be met 95 per cent of the time - remember, against a background of growing workload and understaffing. There has been a 75 per cent increase in our attendance at non-fire incidents such as the Clapham rail crash or the Brighton bomb. The service receives no funding for this work which, commendable though they may be, fire prevention initiatives cannot reduce.

The general public appreciates the importance of our fire service. The FBU wants the Government to acknowledge its value by providing proper funding to ensure public safety.

Yours sincerely,

KEN CAMERON

General Secretary

Fire Brigades Union

Kinston upon Thames, Surrey

9 February

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