Protesters Rally Against Surrey Fire Cuts

The protest was sparked by a proposed cut to fire services

Several hundred people marched in the Surrey town to show their disapproval of Surrey Fire and Rescue Authority’s plans to cut half of the fire resources in Spelthorne, leaving it with one station and one engine.

The organisations which took part included UNISON, the Fire Brigades Union, and the Public and Commercial Services Union.

Paul Couchman, secretary of Save Our Services in Surrey and UNISON representative, said in a statement: “11 residents associations, 3 packed consultation meetings and every local councillor and political party has come out against these cuts. Even the leader of Spelthorne Council has spoken out and the borough council has itself voted against the cuts.

“Now the County Council wants to cut our fire services by 50% – the biggest fire cuts ever in a Surrey borough – making Spelthorne the least fire-resourced borough in Surrey. You can do the maths – there are 35 fire engines in Surrey to cover 11 boroughs. Spelthorne will be left with just one. We have to speak out.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack gave a brief speech at the march.

Paul Neale, Kingston Upon Thames and Richmond FBU Borough Secretary, said that these cuts would affect the South London area as the fire service there will have to meet the shortfall. He gave the example of the London Riots of 2011, when Surrey’s fire services were called in to help deal with the fires that occurred.

He said: “We had to ask them for help during the riots because we were really stretched. But if their services are cut we won’t be able to go to them to ask for assistance. It’s appalling.

“This is putting members of the public under severe risk, as well as the firefighters themselves.

“You need a certain level of fire cover to ensure the safety of the public and of your own personnel. This won’t just provide adequate cover but inadequate cover. You have to have a built in safety margin.”

He also gave the example of the fire at Epsom on Monday which ravaged a listed mansion house, requiring local firefighters to call in help from stations in nearby South London.

Surrey County Council will make a final decision on February 4, 2014.

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