‘Austerity continues with Local Authorities, Blue Light and EA facing another round of 5% cuts to their budgets. Whilst they rightly receive high praise for all their efforts which are well above and beyond the call of duty in these emergencies this is not recognised by central Government whose policies continue to undermine the efforts of these organisations. The Fire Brigades Union have had the courage to spell it out for all to see.’ Bob Earll 

Firefighters union accuses Prime Minister over flood shambles and “absolutely zero leadership”

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has today criticised the “shambles” of Boris Johnson’s flooding response, accusing the Prime Minister of “absolutely zero leadership”, saying he should be “ashamed” of the government’s failure to plan for floods in the long-term.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“This Prime Minister has shown absolutely zero leadership as flooding devastates our communities. Firefighters are on the ground fighting to keep people, homes, and businesses safe, while Boris Johnson cowers in Westminster.

“Flooding is nothing new, and will only get worse with climate change, but our ability to tackle its consequences has been utterly undermined by a lack of long-term planning from this shambles of a government.

“The Tories have slashed fire and rescue funding, bungled flood defences, and refused to recognise in law the role of firefighters and control staff in responding to these emergencies. Boris Johnson should be ashamed.”

Last week the FBU said that fire and rescue services battling the current storms have had their annual funding cut by a total of £141.5 million over the last four years, according to its analysis of England’s local government funding settlement for 2016/17-2020/21.

The worst storm-hit areas in England – Cumbria, West Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester – have had their annual fire and rescue service funding cut by a total of £16 million since 2016.

  • Cumbria has had funding cut by £1.5m or 15%
  • West Yorkshire has seen a £4.8m funding cut, equivalent to 11%
  • Lancashire has endured a £3.8m funding cut or 12%
  • Greater Manchester has had funding cut by £5.9m, more than 10%

The FBU says there has also been an £8.7m cut to the services covering areas with severe “risk to life” flood warnings, including:

  • Hereford and Worcester have had funding cut by £1.9m (19.8%), as they face severe flooding from the River Severn in Upton upon Severn and the River Wye in Hampton Bishop
  • Herefordshire’s funding has been cut by £4.2m (25.3%) and face severe flooding from the River Lugg at Hampton Bishop
  • Gloucestershire’s funding has been cut by £1.3m (18.7%) and face severe flooding from the River Severn at Uckinghall

Firefighters in England still do not have a statutory duty to respond to flooding In contrast, this role is recognised in statute in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Without it, fire and rescue services cannot guarantee the funding and resources needed to properly tackle floods. 

“Years of relentless cuts” have undermined firefighters’ ability to handle major weather events like Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis

Matt Wrack said that “years of relentless cuts” had undermined firefighters’ ability to handle major weather events like Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis, adding:

“We keep getting told that these are ‘once in a generation’ or ‘once in a century’ events – well, we were told that just three months ago when floods hit in November. Climate change is only going to make things worse, but funding for those on the frontline has been slashed.

“The paltry cash-terms increase this year doesn’t even begin to reverse the years of decay and decline in our service. Give us the tools and we’ll do the job – but we need investment and proper pay, terms and conditions.”

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