How ironic then that they have suffered two blows over the past week.
Firstly, Tory ministers negotiation with the Fire Brigade Union over firefighters’ pensions has been shambolic and deeply irresponsible. Millionaire David Cameron’s dismissal of valid concerns put forward by the FBU over pensions coupled with an expectation that firefighters should attend fires and other emergencies until they are 60 (and to meet the same fitness standard as 20 year-olds) has given the FBU no alternative but to call strike action. Strike action is deeply regrettable and the Government should never have got into this position.
The Government has already presided over 46 separate periods of FBU strike action since September 2013. The new Fire Minister, Penny Mordaunt, offered firefighters warm words and raised hopes, only to deliver nothing. She has put down the same offer that her predecessor proposed in June 2013.
The second bombshell came with the announcement that fire fighting provision in Wyre Forest is going to be ‘rationalised’ in order to ‘generate efficiencies’. As we know this is Tory-speak for ‘closed’ or ‘cut’. It is now proposed that the fire stations in Kidderminster, Bewdley and Stourport are going to be closed down and replaced by a single site to cover the whole of Wyre Forest. In a panic Mark Garnier, whose voice clearly carries little weight, was heard on the radio calling for the head of beleaguered Fire Authority chair Derek Prodger. Has Mark forgotten that Councillor Prodger is a Tory county councillor making these closures in response to Tory cuts in local government spending which our local Tory MP has supported?
When I was growing up in Kidderminster as a child “remember, remember, the fifth of November” was a popular refrain. Pity the Tories seem to have forgotten our hard pressed firefighers or the right of the people of Wyre Forest to have adequate fire cover.
Dr Matt Lamb