|The News Line: Editorial
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
No more cuts! Defend the public services!
THE Newquay disaster proves what most people knew to be the case – that cuts in the fire service inevitably cost lives.
Newquay is a fair-sized town, which attracts large numbers of tourists to its hotels. Yet the town had no full-time fire service at night, and did not have enough firefighters to man pumps and ladders. A high-level ladder had to be brought from 50 miles away, because Newquay’s and Truro’s were under repair.
This was not a fire service at the ready. This was a disaster produced by the government’s cuts policy.
There is not the slightest doubt that most of the towns and villages and some of the cities in this country are Newquays just waiting to happen as a result of the campaign over the last ten years to cut, and cut and cut the fire service into ribbons.
Firefighters have been instructed to adopt a new approach and that the accent must be on fire prevention and not dealing with fires, thus creating the need for less firefighters, fire stations, fire engines, and equipment of all kinds.
This mantra led to fire stations being closed, engines being mothballed, and manning levels particularly at night being cut, with retained firefighters playing a much bigger role and full-time firefighters a much lesser one. However full-time firefighters were told that they could double as ambulance crew when it became necessary.
The FBU national terms and conditions of service were rewritten from the point of view of getting a lot more out of much less of a workforce. The end result of all this is Newquay, and more Newquays into the future.
After the Newquay disaster the public will have a much greater understanding of the importance of the struggle of the FBU against all the local authority and government cuts that have been imposed on them.
The FBU, the public sector trade unions and the TUC must all demand that cuts in the fire service be halted at once, and that every area has to be fully manned with the required number of fire engines and all of the necessary equipment, and in particular that there must be full coverage at night by full-time firefighters.
The Newquay disaster is also a warning to the entire pubic sector, especially to the NHS where the privatisation drive and the cuts and closures policies are being pushed forward by the Brown government at breakneck speed. The master plan is to close down 24 of the 32 District General Hospitals in the London area, and do the same job nationally on the same scale.
The fiction is being spread, in the same way that it was in the fire service, that DGHs are out of date, that they can be replaced by polyclinics, and one major regional hospital, so that there are no local, A&E, maternity or other specialised services. Each regional hospital will have a catchment area of up to 1,500,000 people.
People who fall seriously ill or have childbirth complications will have to travel long distances in ambulances, if the polyclinic, with its nurse practitioners and other practitioners, manages to make the correct diagnosis. This is the road to massive medical disasters.
After Newquay the entire public sector must unite in a fighting public sector alliance to tell the government that it must end the regime of cuts, closures and privatisations in the Fire Service, the NHS, the Royal Mail and throughout the whole public sector.
The Brown government is a bankers’ government and will not listen to the demands of the working class and its trade unions.
This is why the trade unions must be ready to use their power. They must be prepared to call a general strike to bring down the Brown government and bring in a workers government that will carry out socialist policies to build and develop the Fire Service, the NHS, The Royal Mail and the Welfare State as a whole. This is what must be done after Newquay.
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