Firefighters are calling for the “temporary” removal of ten appliances and hundreds of jobs to be reversed in the wake of a budget increase of almost £14million.
Last September, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) removed the 10 appliances from stations where there are one or two other fire engines, claiming budget constraints meant cuts were needed.
But now the Scottish government has provided more money, firefighters are calling on bosses to return the appliances removed from stations across the country and fill the 166 jobs lost last year.
Colin Brown of the Fire Brigade Union said: “We know communities across Scotland are deeply concerned about the removal of these appliances and job losses as they are very aware this puts everyone at increased risk. Last year despite the concern from both the public and us, these appliances were removed and jobs lost on the promise that this was a temporary measure.
“Almost immediately there were a number of major fires in the Fife area, highlighting exactly why those resources need to be returned. The service has said that they will put things out to public consultation, but they certainly did not consult the public before they removed appliances in the first place.”
The Scottish government said last year that their budget increase would relieve the need for a four-year cuts plan drawn up by the service.
But firefighters have accused the government of scamming the public as a third of the budget increase, £4.4m, will immediately go on covering last year’s pay increase.
Colin Brown said: “It is completely disingenuous for the government to boast of an almost £14m increase when the reality is that it is more like £9.1m. That lower level of increase to the budget is far from what was needed, and what we could be looking at again is continued concern that cuts will continue.
“The budget has suffered cuts ever since the single force was launched, and we know the state of stations are so bad there are repairs, improvements and replacements needed. The replacement of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete panels will cost in excess of £60m. If the level of cuts continue, we believe hundreds more jobs will be at risk.
“We are already deeply concerned that the service has already lost 1,200 jobs since 2012, and 80% of Scotland is covered by on-call firefighters and we are losing a tenth every year and cannot recruit enough of them because the conditions are so poor.”
Stuart Stevens, Deputy Chief Officer of SFRS, said: “We welcome the announcement of additional investment from the Scottish government and continue to develop detailed financial planning, which will be presented to the SFRS Board in March. We have been clear that the temporary removal of second or third whole-time appliances from selected stations would remain in effect from September 2023 for a period of approximately 12 months.
“We plan to engage with communities, partners, and stakeholders to discuss possible areas we may consider for permanent changes. Our commitment is to be open and transparent throughout this process.”
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