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Posted on 7 September 2010 at 13:06 GMT

South Wales fire service cuts

Fire service managers are at risk of tripping over themselves in their haste to cut jobs and services in South Wales.

Ross Saunders

Before completion of the deeply-flawed consultation on the original plan to force through 50 job cuts at stations in Maesteg, Penarth and Pontypool New Inn, they are already threatening to expand the programme to Ebbw Vale. Adamsdown station in Cardiff could also be demolished as part of another costcutting plan and replaced by a smaller facility and a block of student flats. In just a few weeks the amount of money planned to be cut from the fire service budget has doubled to 10.2 million.

It's clear that local FBU leaders were correct to warn of the "thin end of the wedge". Hundreds of firefighters' jobs could be lost and thousands of lives put at risk as a direct result of this most callous programme of cuts.

While Labour councillors on the fire authority are striking an oppositional pose, Labour Assembly Member (AM) Carl Sargeant - who has the power to halt the cuts - has so far refused to intervene or even to comment on the cuts, and Labour Minister Jane Hutt has gone to extraordinary lengths to facilitate the cutbacks. She granted South Wales Fire Service a special "Invest-to-Save" loan to meet the costs of carrying out their cuts programme.

While some Plaid AMs have criticised this programme, Plaid councillors on the fire authority have remained tight-lipped amid accusations in the local press that they plan to vote in support of the cuts.

But anti-cuts campaigns and alliances are developing. Over 30 residents and firefighters agreed to form Penarth Save Our Fire Service campaign at a meeting organised by Cardiff trades council delegates and Socialist Party members during August.

This will soon be joined by a campaign in Maesteg. A meeting is planned for 16 September at 7pm in the Harlequins on Talbot Street.

A noose is tightening around the neck of the fire authority that will close on the 27 September at a protest lobby, unless councillors pull their neck in and withdraw the plan.

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