Norfolk firefighters join protest march

More than 100 Norfolk firefighters joined a protest march in London yesterday to highlight the danger of cuts to frontline services.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), including officers, control staff and firefighters, travelled to the capital to join up with colleagues from across the country. A total of 2,000 FBU members nationwide took part in the march.

Norfolk FBU has already campaigned against the proposals to cut fire engines and firefighter jobs. The county's fire and rescue service needs to make savings of �3.5 million, a 10pc cut.

Norfolk FBU brigade chairman Peter Greaves said: 'We have seen what �1.5m cuts look like to Norfolk residents. The cuts means the loss of 20pc of fire engines in Norwich and the loss of 32 frontline firefighters.

'These cuts will affect the safety of the people in Norfolk and the safety of our members, Norfolk fire and rescue service can not make further cuts and in our industry cuts do cost lives.'

Members of the FBU protested against earlier plans to cut �1.5m from force budgets but the government's comprehensive spending reviewed revealed the cuts will in fact go deeper.

County Hall insists the changes, part of a new risk management plan, will improve the service particularly in rural areas and make it more adaptable at dealing with other types of emergencies such as flooding and freak weather events, by introducing a new fleet of engines.

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Norfolk firefighter Neil Day said: 'I'm going to London to advise my MP of the impact these cuts are having on the community that they represent and to ask what they are going to do to protect their services'.

Fire control worker Sharon Thorndyke said: 'We are already stretched and the loss of any fire engine will ultimately lead to fire deaths.'

Yesterday FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said frontline jobs had been cut under the Labour Government while back-office positions and chief officer teams had increased.

He angrily attacked politicians and chief fire officers for 'sitting back' and allowing the service to be 'dismantled', adding: 'We face a pay freeze and huge attacks on jobs and conditions as part of an ideological, political assault against public services.

'We are now seeing daft ideas such as increasing the role of the voluntary sector and individual stations being allowed to opt out of fire service control.'

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith met the firefighters. She said: 'I know that everyone in the fire and rescue service from the boss downwards faces tough choices throughout their jobs, including about how best to allocate scarce public funds.

'However, without a doubt the worst to imagine are those decisions that firefighters have to take on the spot. They simply must be equipped adequately and safely to do their job of response, protection and prevention. Firefighters naturally want to see the best protection for the public, but also need it themselves when they go into a dangerous situation.'