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Condescending Tories savage Yorkshire fire service
Iain Dalton, Socialist Party Yorkshire
"The idea that you go from a fire engine with five firefighters on to a van with just two is just madness."
Steve Howley, FBU brigade secretary, summed up the impact of proposed cuts at a protest of 100 firefighters, supporters and Socialist Party members outside a North Yorkshire Fire Authority meeting on 9 December.
The protest was in opposition to cuts across the county (as reported in issue 881 of the Socialist).
The Tory-led fire authority wants to replace one of the two fully equipped fire engines at five stations with so-called Tactical Response Vehicles (TRVs).
Although the chief fire officer advocating the cuts at the meeting showed pictures of something which looks like a smaller fire engine, in reality they haven't tendered for them yet and North Yorkshire could still end up with van-like TRVs as in West Yorkshire.
However, in West Yorkshire these are used as a supplement to existing fire engines. But North Yorkshire Fire Authority wants to make them the first response vehicle crewed by whole-time firefighters and have the full fire engines crewed with only part-time retained firefighters. This could significantly lengthen response times.
At some points the authority meeting was a farce. One Tory councillor repeatedly asked the same question showing he had no understanding of how these cuts would impact his area.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, was there to support the protest. Outside he gave a powerful speech, in particular highlighting how climate change will increase devastating events such as the flooding which has affected areas in North Yorkshire.
Yet inside the meeting he was refused permission to speak by the Tory chair of the authority who arrogantly kept stating, "This is my meeting, I'm the chair", before making condescending references to his time as a former policeman.
85% of responses to the consultation oppose the changes. With this dismissed as being due to fear-mongering by the FBU, a serious discussion on the devastating impact of these cuts was unlikely!
A further review of fire service resources in York is due soon and the Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in North Yorkshire will be continuing our campaign alongside the FBU against the implementation of these savage cuts.
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