Over a thousand firefighters gather at Westminster rally to launch ’emergency’ Manifesto

"To avoid catastrophe, politicians must start listening to the voice of the frontline."

More than a thousand firefighters from across the UK congregated at Westminster Central Hall this Wednesday for the launch of a ‘Firefighters Manifesto’.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has issued a warning to politicians that, if they want to “avert catastrophe”, they must “listen to the voice of the frontline” when it comes to bracing for the realities of climate change and flooding.

The Firefighters’ Manifesto looks to address the devastating impact of austerity on the fire and rescue services, which has seen one in five firefighter jobs cut since 2010, dozens of fire station closures and record response times.

This has left the service ‘dangerously’ overstretched in responding to floods, wildfires and other weather events. It comes as the UK is facing a series of extraordinary storms, with four people dying as a result of Storm Babet which saw the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service receive an “unusually high” number of emergency calls.

Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, has spoken to LFF previously about the “unprecedented” scale of extreme weather events firefighters are facing, such as the recent wildfires, with the impact only exacerbated by huge funding cuts.

He is now calling on politicians to answer this “emergency call”.

“The fire and rescue service is in crisis. To avoid catastrophe, politicians must start listening to the voice of the frontline,” said Matt Wrack.

“Firefighters are there in our time of need, and climate change means there is an urgent requirement to build resilience in the fire and rescue service, as recent flooding has illustrated.   

“Today, more than a thousand firefighters travelled from every corner of the UK to deliver an emergency message to Westminster.   

“Our service has hit crisis point. It’s firefighters, as the voice of the professional frontline, who have a clear vision to save it.    

“Standing shoulder to shoulder, firefighters have demonstrated their commitment to bringing our service back from the brink. Politicians must heed this call and pledge their support for the Firefighters’ Manifesto.  

“Firefighters never ignore a call for help. Now it’s us raising the alarm, and firefighters have delivered a clear message: Westminster must save our service so that we can save lives.” 

Speakers at the rally included TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak, RMT’s Mick Lynch, Zarah Sultana MP and John McDonnell MP.

The Firefighters’ Manifesto demands include:

  •    An immediate injection of cash into the fire and rescue service
  •     National standards on response times and crewing
  •     A new statutory advisory body to set policy and standards, with a seat at the table for firefighters
  •     A series of measures to ensure safe housing for all, pushing back against deregulation
  •     Climate action, with resources and coordination to safeguard against flooding and extreme weather events
  •    Progress on equalities, fire contaminants and democratic accountability

(Image credit: Jess Hurd)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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