The Socialist 11 December 2004
Bring the troops home
Fighting the fire service cuts
FIREFIGHTERS IN Coventry have started to fight back against plans to reduce night time fire cover in the city.
Rob Windsor, Coventry Socialist Party
The plans are part of a move across the West Midlands to reduce fire cover at night. In Coventry, this means seven available fire engines being cut to five.
"They tell us that we are at risk of a chemical or biological attack. It's not inconceivable that this could happen at night, yet they want to cut our cover," said one firefighter petitioning in the city centre at the week-end. "Coventry has some of the highest fire deaths at night," said another.
"All over it's cuts. They are talking about giving street wardens handcuffs and making them act like police! What will happen to the public if this service is cut? I'm out here to sign people up for their best insurance against fire."
The proposed cuts bear out what Socialist Party members in the unions and councillors in the city warned about in the 2002 strike. That unless there was a decisive victory, the fire bosses - more concerned with implementing Blair and Prescott's public service cuts than protecting the public - would come in stages to slash fire cover and jobs.
The fire authority say that these cuts will not seriously impact on the service. But that is like a doctor telling a patient that they can live a full life with half their organs missing. The fire service still guarantees a rapid response to any call for help. Would the ministers and councillors proposing these cuts really like to take a chance with their families in this way?
The cuts are being proposed at a time when Coventry's airport has grown from a freight to a passenger terminal and when houses converted to multiply occupied bedsits have grown. Both carry a greater risk of serious and life-threatening fires at any time.
The Socialist group on the council was the only group to give wholehearted support to the firefighters in the 2002 strike. This was not just about a decent wage for firefighters but the very cuts being proposed now.
Socialist councillors have joined forces on this issue with two independent councillors who left the Labour Party recently. One, Councillor Val Stone, has the respect of firefighters in the city and served on the West Midlands Fire Authority. They are putting a motion to the 14 December council meeting oppose the cuts in fire cover.
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