‘The last five years have been the most worrying’

WARNING Mark Chapman of the Fire Brigades Union

WARNING Mark Chapman of the Fire Brigades Union

Firefighters tackling a blaze at The Hard in Portsmouth Picture: Malcolm Wells

UPDATE: Road closed as firefighters probe blaze at The Hard

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I am a firefighter.

I have served the public for the last 15 years, loyally and selflessly, ensuring that I give 100 per cent to making those within my ‘patch’ as safe as possible.

Through those 15 years I have, with blind innocence, ignored the world of politics that surrounds me, with a naive pre-conception that I am unable to change that world which seems so alien to me.

But when you think about it, these two worlds aren’t so dissimilar.

Firefighters have a ‘patch’, a station-ground where they offer prevention, education and intervention to safeguard those living and working within it.

A politician has a constituency, a pre-prescribed territory with a populous of constituents who they represent.

They work to ensure those living and working within that constituency are served to the best of their ability and to protect the majority’s best interests.

With this simplistic view, it’s easy to see the similarities.

As a firefighter, I have seen many things but these last five years have been the most devastating and worrying.

So bad that I can no longer ignore the consequences and so I have chosen to share them with you.

In the last five years, I have seen some of the most severe cuts to your fire service in the name of ‘austerity’.

Most reading this may not have felt the effect of these cuts; people rarely do which is fortunate.

It is only when the time comes that you have no other option but to dial 999 that you will tangibly feel the effects.

On the eve of the last election, David Cameron said: ‘There will be no cuts to front-line services.’

Unfortunately, you were misled.

So far, his coalition government have reduced the fire service budget by 20 per cent – ‘so far’, because if elected again they propose a further 8.8 per cent next year.

Fire stations, fire engines and firefighters have all been reduced.

Over their term in government, the public have lost 40 fire stations, 146 fire engines and 5,000 firefighter posts.

Ten of those stations were in our capital and were closed in the last 12 months.

That’s more stations closed in one year than in the last 50.

If this isn’t front-line cuts what is?

The time it takes for the first fire engine to get to you when you call us now takes on average two minutes longer than it did 20 years ago.

In a life-or-death situation every second counts.

You now have to wait longer for a service that indiscriminately aims to protect and save your life.

The fire service costs you on average £50 per year.

We rescue 100 people per day. We perform 40,000 rescues per year.

That’s at a cost of roughly 13p per day to you.

Are you as a voter ready to accept these cuts and at what cost?

An increase in your insurance premiums?

Your safety or at the very worst your life?

Please consider this before you place your vote to protect your front-line services, which, in turn, protect you, your friends and your family.

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