Surrey’s Tory Council Prepares To Cut The Fire and Rescue Service

“Councillors say they are ‘trimming the fat’. However, the fat went years ago and they have been gnawing on the bones ever since”. Richard Jones.

When Richard Jones addressed a “Save Our Services in Surrey” lobby of Surrey County Council, Kingston Town Hall on March 23rd, the Surrey Fire Brigade Union (FBU) branch secretary painted a picture of crisis in Surrey’s rescue services. He said: “We’ve reached a point where fire crews are turning up at emergencies and having to tell the public that they cannot make a rescue because they have to wait for more staff to turn up. These cuts put lives at risk. We turn up to incidents without enough crew and have to wait for back up before we can safely enter the building. Fire fighters are going in understaffed and risking their lives. The public is in danger, fire-fighters are in danger, enough is enough!”

He continued: “If the Council’s cuts go through, Surrey will be spending less per head of the population on fire services than any county in Britain. It will mean the loss of fire engines and station closures. It’s life or death in the fire services and if these cuts continue the Grim Reaper will be taking up residence in Surrey.”

Richared Jones was quoted in the Woking News & Mail yesterday as saying: “The council have said it is making cuts to Surrey Fire and Rescue because there had been a reducution in funds from the government”. However Richard continued, he could see no cuts that had been made by the government, and accused the council of “making reductions to enable lower council tax bills, in order to gain votes in elections in the coming years”.

The Tory Council is considering several cuts packages, including stopping day-time retained day cover and reducing the number of night time fire engines in service. Many of the smaller towns in surrey have a retained fire service, where fire crews are called in to the station from home when there is a fire. Any further reducions in these services will greatly lengthen response times and cost lives. These cuts are being made from council set budgets and are going to cause great damage to the fire service.

In his Woking News & Mail interview, Richard Jones said: “The cuts would only amount to an average of two pence per week for an average council tax paying household”. These cuts have already begun, with the fire service already loosing half a million pounds from its budget.  

The interview took place following the Woking News & Mail’s freedom of information request, which revealed Woking area fire crews have been called to 384 night time incidents in the past twelve months. 

The Tory Council is using the recession as a smoke screen for its own political agenda. Up and down the country the recession is being as an excuse to attack working conditions, pay and services.

The government blamed the recession when it announced their plans (now scrapped) to privatise the post office. Many universities have used the real cuts in education funding to hide large scale cuts of their own, desisgned to re-orientate the focus of the entire education system. The same tactic is being used by bosses in the rail industry and across the public sector.

 However, time and again, local people have shown that when they stand together in anti-cuts groups, local coalitions or ‘committees of action’ they are able to defeat plans to cut services. The government has baulked at privatising  the posal service; the campaigns against cuts in education have met with etraordinary successes everywhere.- And here in Surrey, Brooklands College was recently saved after a huge campaign by staff, students, and the whole community.

Remember public services when you vote May 6th.

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