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Fire Cuts Curtailed

Thursday, February 13th, 2020 8:53am

By Joseph Tinman - Local Democracy Reporter

Bolton Central Community Fire Station

Planned cuts to the fire service have been curtailed as authorities look to recruit more than 100 firefighters in the wake of a devastating fire in Bolton town centre last year.

Now, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham wants to raise council tax to fund the fire service, delay proposals to reduce the number of fire engines and keep crews on each pump at the same level for now.

But, as plans to merge Bolton’s two fire station loom over the town, one fire engine, or appliance, could still be removed from the borough’s fleet.

The Fire Brigades Union have opposed the proposals and are calling for the removal of six appliances from the region so far to be reversed.

Ross Strother, Greater Manchester brigade chair, described the mayor’s budget proposals for the next financial year as a “sticking plaster”.

He said: “Undoubtedly, the fire at the Cube in Bolton has made a difference. It stretched services in Greater Manchester to its limit. It has been a waking for the mayor because it was on his doorstep.

“They have had to raise the council tax because of cuts from central government. It goes up and up and up, then they take more away from you.

“There’s more and more risk to people who are paying more and more money. Every single one of us is paying more money for less service.”

Mr Strother also said that the fire service workforce is currently at “rock bottom” as firefighters leave the profession. He said: “There’s people leaving on a weekly basis. I’ve been a firefighter for 25 years. I’ve never seen the level of firefighters leaving as they are at the moment. They are haemorrhaging people.”

Mr Burnham said: “Our Fire and Rescue Service has been hammered over the years due to funding cuts by central government – a loss of £23.8m since 2010.

“My priority has always been to keep people in Greater Manchester safe and that’s what I’m doing by delaying operational changes to the service and recruiting 108 firefighters, funded through a slight increase in how much council tax payers contribute.”

The budget proposals are set to be approved at a meeting on Friday when the mayoral council tax precepts will be set.

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