Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/27613

Posted on 6 July 2018 at 18:32 GMT

photo Sarah Wrack

photo Sarah Wrack   (Click to enlarge)

Pressure building on Merseyside councillors to stop fire service cuts

Hugh Caffrey

Firefighters on Merseyside are resisting further devastating cuts to the fire and rescue service being implemented by the Labour-run fire authority as it passes on Tory government funding cuts. 1.9 million is being cut back by closing fire stations during nights, while 25 million is held in the reserves of the fire authority and 100,000 a year is spent on a 'scab army' to undermine the Fire Brigades Union (FBU)!

The 60-odd attendees at the Merseyside FBU's campaign launch public meeting were outraged at this. As FBU regional secretary Mark Rowe explained, the fire service locally was in a pretty poor state going into 2010 after six years of New Labour attacking and deregulating the service.

Since 2010 the cuts have been devastating, "now way beyond crisis point", said Mark, with firefighter numbers by 2020 to fall from 927 to 580, engines from 42 to 22, six stations already closed and five to be shut overnight.

Already fire deaths locally have trebled, with smaller fire crews now facing even more dangerous situations.

Firefighters have tried to help the fire authority deal with the government cutbacks, voluntarily going to 12-hour-day shift patterns they didn't want, doing more community work on fire safety, taking shorter breaks and a voluntary pay cut that takes salaries below the national rates, and changing working practices to keep specialist appliances running. The response of the fire authority has been to take all this and demand more.

"The cuts are government led but we're angry that despite everything we've done that Merseyside Fire Authority have seen fit to attack our terms and conditions, the Labour controlled fire authority has refused to honour national agreements on overtime payments. We say to them, pay the overtime rates and get the engines back on the run."

To add insult to injury, in Greater Manchester the metro-mayor Andy Burnham eventually stepped in with extra funds to resolve a similar situation, but on Merseyside there is no sign of such a shift from the fire authority.

Instead the fire authority has imposed night-time closure on Crosby, Aintree and Kensington fire stations, and intends to close Liverpool city centre and Wallasey fire stations overnight from the near future.

Since 2006, over 1 million has been spent by the fire authority on payments to a scab army, inducements to people to undermine the Fire Brigades Union.

The fire authority at all points has been a Labour-run body, but has behaved worse than some Tory authorities. The current Labour chair of the fire authority was a Tory councillor in the past, before crossing the floor to Labour!

Mark reported that the West Midlands fire authority backed down on changes to contracts after a 90% vote by firefighters for industrial action. "It's not too much to ask for, from a Labour-run fire authority", said Mark, that it abides by national agreements between employer and union. The cuts are government led but there is 25 million held in reserves.

Government guidelines for the proportion of reserves to be held have been reduced to 5%, yet the Merseyside fire authority reserves equal 40% of it's annual budget! The reserves should be spent on stopping and reversing the cuts, to make it safer for the public and firefighters.

Mark concluded by explaining the need to convince the 18 members of the fire authority to change tack, through lobbying, petitions and leaflets, and demonstrations.

Contributions from the floor mostly expressed rage at the councillors, especially in the wake of Grenfell, and the fire at the Echo Arena carpark in Liverpool which needed a turnout of firefighters from across the north-west to tackle due to the cutbacks already.

Socialist Party members spoke early and met with widespread agreement. Tony Mulhearn from Liverpool called on the fire authority councillors to resign and make way for people willing to conduct a struggle in defence of the FBU.

Mark Hazlehurst from Wirral Socialist Party reported that in six months of campaigning in Wallasey to keep the fire station open 24/7, over 2,000 petition signatures have been collected, "ramping up the pressure on the councillors", which has had an effect, with a motion opposing the downgrade put to the Labour-run council by one of the fire authority Labour councillors!

Mark called for strong local campaigns in every community where a station is threatened, to build big public meetings, and get posters in every shop window: "With universal public support, let's harness that".

Fifteen of the 18 councillors on the authority are Labour, with seven of those up for re-election next year, and so reselection as candidates this year, including the fire authority chair. "Let's write to those councillors and their wards asking them to outline their position", said Mark, "and if they won't then we should move to deselect them or stand against them in next May's elections."


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 6 July 2018 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.






Related links:

Merseyside:

triangleGuards move closer to beating driver-only operation

triangleMerseyside fire authority forced to postpone night closures

triangle#NorthernFail: 250 rail services cancelled

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleSave Free School Meals!

Fire service:

triangleWest Midlands firefighters vote to strike in massive numbers

triangleFirefighters ballot for action

triangleFighting fire cuts in Wirral

triangleFire service victory

Fire:

triangleGrenfell - no more cover-ups!

triangleGrenfell disaster: one year on, still no prosecutions, still no adequate housing..

triangleCapitalism's Grenfell shame

Cuts:

triangleNHS Tayside facing massive job cuts

triangleHaringey's 'Corbyn council' must refuse to make cuts!

Councillors:

triangleNewham by-election: We need anti-austerity councillors

Labour:

triangleEngaging book about Corbyn's rise doesn't provide answers on how to change Labour

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

14/11/18

Socialist

The Activist issue 78

14/11/18

Swansea

Welsh Socialist Students campaign and meet in Swansea

14/11/18

Leeds

Leeds meeting backs striking rail guards

14/11/18

Newham

Newham by-election: We need anti-austerity councillors

14/11/18

Mansfield

Mansfield: keep our park open!

14/11/18

Haringey

Haringey's 'Corbyn council' must refuse to make cuts!

14/11/18

NEU

National Education Union: vote for action on funding

14/11/18

CWU

Victory for democracy at CWU 'redesign' conference

14/11/18

PCS

PCS union members: why we're backing Chris

14/11/18

Gas

British Gas workers need rank-and-file leadership

14/11/18

Unite

TGI Fridays strike wins control of tips

13/11/18

Socialism

Latest Socialism podcasts

13/11/18

London underground

Tube strike solid against victimisation

9/11/18

Socialist Party

Socialist Party branches

8/11/18

TUSC

TUSC suspends electoral activity

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


November 2018

October 2018

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999