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Fears fire engine cuts at Parr Stocks will cost lives
A DECISION to halve the number of fire engines from two to one at St Helens station headquarters could cost lives, Labour politicians warned tonight.
Fifty seven firefighters are facing the threat of redundancy and 90 will be lost through “natural retirement” across Merseyside over the next three years, it has been announced today (Tuesday, February 26).
Dan Stephens, Chief Fire Officer in Merseyside, said: “A 33 per cent reduction in fire appliances will affect our emergency response and our fire prevention activities, but we will continue to identify ways of making ourselves more effective and efficient with fewer resources.”
Following a cut in government grants by 8.7 per cent for 2013/2014 and 7.5 per cent for 2014/15, Merseyside Fire Authority has to find savings of £10m over the next two years.
It means that the amount of fire engines will be down to 28, but all stations will remain open, including those in St Helens.
However, Parr Stocks station will have just the one engine.
People will also see a two per cent increase in their council tax precept, meaning that people living in Band A properties will pay an extra 89p a year for their fire and rescue service.
Shaun Woodward, the St Helens South and Whiston MP blasted the coalition government, saying: “This forced cut which will impact on every community on Merseyside, once again this shows that the coalition government is attacking the most deprived communities on Merseyside.
“The Fire Authority has been put in an impossible position of having to manage cuts which are being imposed by central government. These cuts are twice of those inflicted on other forces, which we can be in no doubt, will mean a reduction in service - a reduction which could very well cost lives.
“Whilst it is welcome that Eccleston Fire Station will be saved, the downgrading of Parr Station to one fire engine could have a devastating impact on St Helens.
“It will still take the same time for the first fire engine to get to an incident but the second engine will take about two-and-a-half minutes longer to arrive – to around nine minutes. Whether it is a house fire or someone trapped in a vehicle collision on the East Lancs Road that could mean the difference between life and death.
“The way the Fire Service can respond to multiple incidents will undoubtedly be a challenge because the strength and depth will have been weakened.
“I pay tribute to our excellent firemen and women who save lives day in, day out. They often risk their own lives to keep Merseyside safe. This announcement is a further kick in the teeth for these brave men and women who now are at risk of losing their jobs.
“The numbers of fire-fighters across Merseyside will have plummeted from nearly 1,400 to 760 across once these cuts are implemented.
“I previously called on the government to act before it’s too late and someone dies. They have chosen to ignore these warnings and if as a result of these cuts, a number of people in any constituency die in an out-of-control fire in a school or business, an inquiry will be demanded and the blame will clearly be at the minister’s door who has forced this budget decision to be implemented.
“I along with my fellow Merseyside MPs will continue to campaign for a fair funding settlement and hold the coalition to account of their flagrant disregard for public safety.”