Flooded Thames area loses fire stations and rescue workers
Photo credit: James Bartosik
Flooded Thames area will lose fire stations and up to 40 rescue workers to cuts, say firefighters
Surrey County Council has announced that it will close Sunbury and Staines fire stations and will be replacing them with a single new station in Spelthorne, despite 92% of the public rejecting the proposal in a public consultation.
These cuts will mean that areas in Surrey, which are currently affected by flooding, will lose fire and rescue stations, equipment and up to 40 staff.
According to local firefighters, the cuts have already had an effect on the service’s response to the flooding, which has been severely restricted due to an over-reliance on part-time ‘retained’ firefighters.
“The service is already being stretched to breaking point,” says Fire Brigades Union (FBU) secretary for Surrey, Richard Jones.
“Further cuts could mean floods in future are even more dangerous and damaging.”
Only two water pumps were available on Monday morning (9 February) because of a lack of available crew. The FBU has said that serious questions need answering over the response to the floods, the costs involved and the fire and rescue services ability to plan and train staff members.
“We don’t receive funding for covering flooding, and even with huge amounts of overtime paid out to beef-up staff numbers, only two out of the 13 on-call pumps were available this morning due to understaffing,” explains Jones.
“Given how much we are struggling, firefighters on the ground are expressing serious doubts over the service’s ability to respond successfully to floods in the future.”
Currently there is no obligation for fire and rescue services to attend floods, however, the FBU has strongly encouraged the introduction of a statutory duty for firefighters to cover flooding.
The union has stated that the council’s policy of paying private contractors to undertake non-essential work at the same time as closing fire stations raises important issues about their priorities.
What do you think? Have your say below.