FIRE and rescue services currently responding to the floods in northern England are hampered by the unprecedented cuts they have suffered over the past five years, said the Fire Brigades Union yesterday.
The body of an elderly man was found in the River Kent near Kendal yesterday, while over 40 schools are closed in Cumbria and the Cumbria NHS Trust says it is only running essential services, while Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle is being powered by a back-up generator.
Furious flood victims condemned government cuts for the deluge wrecking their homes, saying that the multi-million-pound defences which were built following the devastating floods in 2005 were completely inadequate and failed to keep them safe.
Cumbria, Northumberland, Lancashire, Tyne and Wear and North Yorkshire fire and rescue services have all faced devastating cuts, resulting in an unprecedented loss of firefighter numbers. Between 2011 and 2015 the Fire and Rescue Service in the region suffered colossal firefighter cuts.
Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service saw a reduction of 87 firefighters (12.6%), Northumberland 31 (8%), Lancashire 241 (18.3%), Tyne and Wear 171 (18.6%), North Yorkshire 78 (10%). And the cuts continue, with two more fire engines facing the axe in Northumberland, the service in North Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear is looking to extend the use of Tactical Response Vehicles (TRV), smaller van like vehicles that carry fewer firefighters and less equipment, which would be all but useless in the current situation.
Lazonby fire station in Cumbria, which has deployed firefighters for the past 36 hours, is earmarked for closure, cuts to control services has resulted in non-emergency calls being ignored. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘Firefighters are doing fantastic work tackling the impact of the storm and the floods and deserve the support of everyone.
‘David Cameron has tweeted his sympathy for the thousands of people affected by the storm. Yet our fire and rescue service is being cut to pieces and the Prime Minister turns a blind eye to the results.’