Last Friday marked the end of a farcical public consultation on the ill-informed plan to destroy Leicestershire fire services.
Demonstrating the necessity of both active lobbying and protesting against any proposed cuts to public services, the day before the consultation ended the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) extracted the following, very supportive, statement from Sir Peter Soulsby: “Shutting Central Fire Station is a red line that should NOT be crossed”.
This is an important victory, all the more so because in September the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service’s management admitted that for their plans to be carried through, their “proposals have to be accepted in their entirety.” So to get Soulsby, the vice-chair of the Fire Authority, to so categorically reject the closure of Central Fire Station will mean that the rest of the country’s fire services should be protected from the outlined cuts.
Of course the FBU are well aware that politicians and managers tend to change their minds on such matters, so, until the final decision is made on February 9, they plan to continue campaigning to make the case that no frontline cuts should be imposed upon Leicestershire’s already poorly funded fire services.
Still, the FBU have already won on one issue, which they have done by successfully delaying the loss of one of the two fire engines located at Western Fire Station. It turns out that the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service failed to undertake any public consultation on this action with local residents of Leicester West, thereby acting in breach of the Gunning Principles on legal public consultation.
So when Liz Kendall (after very persistent lobbying efforts by the firefighters) finally joined the city’s other two Labour MPs in firmly opposing the loss of Western station, fire service management finally backed down and postponed this decision until the end of February.
This is an important, albeit temporary, reprieve, and once again shows how important it is for people to rally behind the firefighters in their inspired efforts to prevent all cuts to frontline fire services. It was the combined efforts of firefighters and the public that made this possible, not the good will of Leicester’s elected Labour representatives.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on December 7. A slightly edited version was published on December 10.