Feeling the Heat of Public Outrage

Everyones safety is threatened by our Government, not just foreign countries under threat of bombing campaigns. Leicestershire’s fire service is already the worst funded in the country, but that isn’t preventing further cuts to funding and frontline services.

“What is happening in Leicestershire is unfortunately part of what is happening all over the country,” explained Matt Wrack, the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). “We’ve got similar cuts all over the place, fire stations being closed, fire engines being axed, firefighters jobs being cut, and as a result of that response times are increasing.”

The FBU have already voiced their anger at the anti-democratic manner in which the current plans are being consulted on — a so-called consultation supported by both Labour and Conservative councillors.

All too often “these consultations are fairly misleading” Mr Wrack added, “they are designed to lead people to support the proposals of the chief fire officer as presented. They don’t set out very clearly that stations are being closed, and the impact on response times.”

Nevertheless, although the FBU have put forward viable alternative plans that do not involve frontline cuts, they are encouraging the public to engage with the consultation in order to make their views known to the Fire Authority.

The first public consultation meeting was held on a Friday night at Central Fire Station, and drew together around 60 people who stood for nearly two hours to make their unanimous opposition to the cuts felt (October 3, Leicester Mercury).

Central Fire Station consultation meeting
Central Fire Station consultation meeting

The following weekend the Mercury (October 10) published five excellent letters, all united in criticizing the proposed cuts. The paper also reported that another consultation event in Hinckley was attended by 147 people, all opposed to the “controversial plans to remove one of Hinckley’s two remaining fire engines” (October 10, Mercury).

Not everyone is opposed to public sector cuts. For example, this week Liz Kendall has yet again failed to challenge Tory austerity, this time by failing to oppose the Tories so-called Charter for Fiscal Responsibility. However in a turn-out for the books, most Labour MPs followed Jeremy Corbyn’s lead in saying no to never-ending austerity.

Both Keith Vaz and Jon Ashworth have also lent their support to the FBU by writing letters that question the decisions made by the Fire Authority.

Public outrage to the proposed attacks upon our vital services is growing by the day, and on Thursday (October 15) 250 people turned out to the Kibworth consultation meeting to make it known that they would never accept the planned closure of their local fire station.

Kibworth consultation meeting
Kibworth consultation meeting

When, one might ask, will the Fire Authority’s newly imposed leaders Nick Rushton and Peter Soulsby begin to see sense?

It seems obvious to all, that all Labour councillors must now rally to oppose Government funding cuts, and contribute towards building a vibrant fight-back against the Tories ongoing and criminal raids upon all our public services.

This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on 16th October.

Summary of the five letters published in the Leicester Mercury (October 10)

Chris Bilby (“Political antics disgusting”) reported on his attendance at the extraordinary meeting of Leicestershire Country Council held on the topic of the fire cuts, noting how “The current chairman of the Combined Fire Authority and leader of the county council Nick Rushton proceeded to decry and ridicule anyone and everyone who supported” the Liberal Democrat’s motion to oppose the cuts.

Fireletters1Damon Gibbons (“We need a real debate”) outlined the reasons why the “consultation arrangements are likely to be open to legal challenge”. He concluded: “Instead of voting for cuts, Sir Peter Soulsby and the other Labour councillors on the fire authority should stand up to Government cutbacks and work with the Fire Brigades Union, other public sector unions and the wider public to generate a campaign capable of winning a fair settlement for Leicester. As an immediate step, the Labour councillors should call for this consultation process to be abandoned and for a fresh debate instigated with all options back on the table.”

Andrew Deacon (“Plans must be tested”) wrote that “The suggestion that the peripheral [fire] stations could replace Lancaster Road and give a similar response time is, to put it mildly, stupid.”

Firefighter letters

Another contributor whose name was withheld (“Short-term thinking”) noted how “The proposed closure of Leicester Central and Kibworth fire stations along, with 88 redundancies in Market Harborough, Hinckley and Leicester, is a catastrophic short-term fix, which will bring a much bigger problem in a few years.”

Mrs R Taylor (“I’m worried!”) voiced her concerns and pointed out that “We want, and pay for, a service which is fit for purpose (it should even be augmented), not a shrivelled-up shadow of its former self.” She concluded: “I’m very cynical concerning these proposed ‘improvements’ and wonder who will take responsibility when the first fatality happens. Fill in the consultation form on-line and object to all the cuts!”

Leicestershire County Council Lobby
Leicestershire County Council Lobby
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