THE time between a 999 call and fire engines arriving on to the scene of a fire has increased. This is despite the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) warning that in a fire seconds mean the ‘difference between life and death’.
Firefighters take 2 minutes 42 seconds longer to respond to a primary fire, compared with 1994/5.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘In a fire, a matter of seconds could be the difference between life and death, so these figures are incredibly alarming. Services have been cut to the bone, and it’s obvious that with fewer firefighters and scarcer resources, firefighters are taking longer to get to fires, putting lives and businesses at risk.’
Over a decade of Tory cuts, during which PM Johnson was Mayor of London, has devastated the fire service. Johnson shut 10 fire stations, axed 552 firefighters’ jobs and took 27 fire engines out of service!
Meanwhile, the 999 call centres are being merged. The FBU has already issued a safety-critical notice after Surrey and West Sussex control rooms were merged. More than 9,000 extra calls per year are to be handled by just four staff, a 79% increase in incidents.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published their annual report on Wednesday and it was shocking.
The report, while describing a service hacked, slashed and starved of resources, had the cheek to turn its fire against the union itself, alleging the FBU had ‘undue influence’ on the fire service.
The FBU defiantly hit back: ‘We utterly refute any suggestion that the FBU have “undue influence” on our service. We are the democratically elected representatives of professional firefighters. They know best about their service and should have a strong voice in how it is run.’
And the HMICFRS are not the only ones to attack the firefighters. A leaked report by the chairman of the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry, Martin Moore-Bick, blamed the London Fire Brigade (LFB) itself for the deaths.
However, the truth is that, if the May government had legislated to make the type of cladding that was used in Grenfell illegal, as was demanded of it, there would not have been a fire at all!
The inquiry is steering the blame for the Grenfell fire away from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council, the government, the cladding company Arconic, the refurbishment company Rydon, and the Tenants Management Organisation (TMO).
Yesterday, we found out that the inquiry is to have connections with the cladding industry itself. Benita Mehra, a civil engineer, and past president of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) has been appointed by PM Johnson to the Grenfell Tower inquiry panel to take part in the Inquiry’s second phase.
It is a fact that Mehra’s WES received funding linked to US firm Arconic, which supplied the cladding that helped spread the Grenfell Tower fire. Arconic supplied the flammable cladding panels and Rydon did the refurbishment.
These links should bar Mehra from the inquiry. A refusal to do so will be the proof that the much praised inquiry is biased in favour of the cladding industry, and that its findings, especially its condemnations of the FBU, cannot be taken seriously.
It is the Tory RBKC council, the Tenants Management Organisation who put the cladding up, private companies Arconic and Rydon, and the Tory government that are responsible for the deaths of 72 people in the Grenfell Tower fire. Their deaths are not the responsibility of the brave firefighters, who did their duty and did save many lives.
Rydon and its management team have not faced court corporate manslaughter charges. In fact, Rydon has been awarded further local government contracts. Maidstone borough council has awarded Rydon a contract to build a £9.5m complex at the Kent Medical Campus.
Instead, FBU heroes have been shamefully targeted. Rydon, Arconic, RBKC, the TMO and the Tory government must face justice for the Grenfell Tower atrocity. Otherwise, mass deaths from preventable fires will become the rule.
What is required is a workers government that will make fire safety in workers’ homes its top priority.