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Funding for UK fire services cut by £140m since 2016

UK Fire Service

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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has revealed that Government funding for UK fire services in England has been cut by £139.7m since 2016/17.

Over the last five years fire and rescue services have reduced by 13.8% which has seen added pressure to departments across the country. The union is now calling on the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak to provide urgent funding in the spring budget.

Some UK fire services losing up to £22m

Some fire and rescue services have seen funding cut by more than 40%, with some brigades losing as much as £22m. At the beginning of the previous settlement, in 2013/14, fire and rescue services received £1,240m of government funding. But this has dropped to £873m for 2021-22, a cut of £367m.

Funding cuts will worsen public and firefighter safety and the impact of fires, floods, and other emergencies, the FBU says. England has lost 21% of its firefighters since 2010, totaling 9,444.                                                                                                                            

The FBU’s analysis reveals that from 2016/17 to 2021/22:

  • Four brigades have had their funding cut by more than a third. West Sussex has lost £4.3m or 43.9%, Warwickshire £2.9m or 40.8%, Oxfordshire £3.2m or 38.2%, and Surrey £6.1m or 34.3%. None of these brigades have been granted any more funding since last year.
  • London Fire Brigade experienced the biggest cut in cash terms, losing £22.1m or 9.5% of its funding.
  • Another 9 brigades have had their funding cut by more than £4m, including Greater Manchester (£5.8m or 10.2%), West Yorkshire (£4.8m or 11.1%) and Devon and Somerset £4.5m or 16.8%).
  • 42 of England’s 43 brigades have had their funding cut by at least £1m since 2016/17 and 41 have been cut by at least 10%.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The last five years has seen more devastating cuts to fire and rescue services just as brigades face an increased threat from major events like floods and wildfires.

“For firefighters and their communities, these aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet. This will worsen public safety, firefighter safety, and the damage wreaked on homes, businesses, and the environment by fires, floods and other emergencies.

“This year, brigades are experiencing another real-terms cut to their funding from central government, with the costs of the pandemic leaving local authorities unable to soften the blow. The cash-terms increase each brigade will receive is painfully small and, after losing millions over the last few years, demonstrates this government’s contempt for a vital service.

“Unless the fire and rescue service receives substantial and sustained funding going forward from the Chancellor, guaranteeing public safety will become increasingly a throw of the dice.”

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