Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/24125
Fire service cuts: "a betrayal of the people of Spelthorne"
Betrayal. Such was the feeling of the 40+ people gathered in the Staines Hub on Tuesday evening. They had come to hear from local firefighters and from Paul Couchman of Save Our Services in Surrey (SOSIS) about the new proposals to cut Spelthorne's fire safety cover even further than previously threatened.
One of the local Spelthorne firefighters made it clear why they were there:
"I am not here because I fear for my job, nor because I live locally and fear the loss of fire cover for my family. I live in Guildford where they have four fire appliances. I have been a firefighter here for nearly 20 years. I am here today because I believe these proposals are wrong, they will grossly disadvantage Spelthorne residents and they are not based on a proper assessment of the risks."
According to the Surrey firefighters:
- The Staines fire engine is the busiest engine in the whole of Surrey.
- Staines firefighters alone have saved the lives of five people this year.
Spelthorne has the:
- Worst record of fire deaths in Surrey.
- Highest concentration of tower blocks.
- The busiest roads and most congested bridges connecting to the rest of Surrey.
- Some of the worst pockets of deprivation.
- The most dangerous stretch of river.
- The highest concentration of vulnerable adults who cannot self-rescue.
- The busiest airport in Europe.
- A new waste incinerator being built and; It borders the West London Oil Storage Depot (bigger than Bunsfield).
Surrey's consultation website says nothing about all this. It has no data on where fire deaths occur, where people have been rescued or where residential fires have occured. Surrey County Council (SCC) is refusing to hold a public meeting this time around.
The argument being put forward is that it needs to save money.
Save Our Services in Surrey does not accept the need for cuts in public services.
Paul Couchman said:
"The wealth of the richest 1% of the population has grown whilst the rest of us suffer wage cuts, unstable employment conditions and austerity. This government, and their representatives on local councils, have made cut after cut in public services - in health, education and social care amongst others. People will not take it any more. The trade unions, alongside residents associations and community groups, need to draw a line in the sand and say: no more cuts.
"If the Tories in Spelthorne borough and in Surrey County Council get away with axing our fire service here in Spelthorne then they will come back for more, and more ... until there are no publicly owned and democratically run public services left. We have no choice but to fight."
The fact that Spelthorne has once again been targetted for deeper cuts than the rest of Surrey was not lost on the audience.
Again, local firefighters explained:
"Under the current proposals Spelthorne will only have one of the 35 Surrey appliances. The average for each of the eleven boroughs will be three. To put it another way, Spelthorne residents will be paying for fire cover across Surrey when they will only have a single engine. The generally less well-off borough subsidising the more wealthy areas yet again".
The meeting pledged to build the opposition to the proposed immediate closure of Staines station and to campaign vigorously for Spelthorne to continue to have two full-time appliances.
It was decided to organise a major lobby of the Spelthorne council meeting in Knowle Green on 23 February at 6.30pm, to make the strength of feeling known. SOSIS and the FBU, along with local firefighters, other trade unions and local residents associations will be building for this over the next two months, as well as promoting the petition on the SCC website and encouraging people to individually lobby their local councillors.
Anyone who would like to help distribute flyers or get involved with SOSIS should visit www.sosis.org.uk or email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.