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MP backs calls to protect fire service from further cuts

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has pledged to do all he can to protect Formby Fire Station against further Government cuts.

The move comes after Sefton Council passed a motion calling on the Government to "cease any further cuts to the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority budget".

The MP said there had been “deeply damaging" cuts to the fire service and said that he would resist any attempts by the government to threaten the future of Formby Fire Station.

Mr Esterson said: "These deeply damaging cuts have led to a loss of more than 400 fire fighters since 2010. Yet there are still cuts in the pipeline and it is vital that given how far Formby is to the next fire station, that it is protected from the next round of cuts. It beggars belief that Conservative members of Sefton Council did not support the fire service and refused to vote to protect Formby Fire Station.”

By 2020, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) will have lost 410 fire fighters, 18 fire engines and four fire stations since 2010.

The Sefton Council motion stated: "MFRS has experienced the worst budget reductions in the country, which has had a detrimental impact on both front line and support service staff and seen a reduction in the number of fire stations and appliances available to attend emergency calls.

"As MFRS budgets and physical firefighting resources continue to be cut, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet local needs and address risk in the communities, the service is at breaking point and has sought to implement a programme of transformation to ensure the risk based needs of local communities are met, supporting the most vulnerable first."

The motion called on the Government to "undertake a full risk assessment of the impact of the cuts to date and the degradation of the remaining service" and "allow MFRA the flexibility to increase Council Tax above the cap without the need for a County wide referendum".

It continued: "This Council on behalf of the citizens of Sefton and Merseyside wish to place on record its full hearted thanks and appreciation for the work undertaken by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, and all its Fire Fighters and support staff for their dedication, commitment and professionalism in keeping our communities safe in unprecedented times

"This Council recognises the excellent work undertaken by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service in delivering community safety and prevention initiatives to residents and businesses across Sefton and Merseyside.

"The Council, appreciates that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has to deal with a wide range of incidents, and therefore requires the resources to respond as speedily and effectively as possible under difficult financial circumstances. MFRS through its support to National Resilience, is also required to respond to activities regionally, nationally and internationally; such as response to a potential terrorist threat, severe weather and any incident that may have an impact on critical infrastructure.

"MFRS also delivers interventions to the wide ranging needs of our communities, which includes proactive prevention activities in undertaking ‘Safe and Well’ visits, which targets our most vulnerable residents. These visits go deeper to identify and address the wider health and or lifestyle issues which may, further down the line, lead to an emergency incident or acute intervention from the NHS, Social Services, safeguarding and other wider public services .

"MFRS has continued to evolve and reform, working in collaboration with our other emergency services, Health organisations, and local Authority partners, whilst maintaining its commitment to the delivery of our community safety plan.

"The Government should recognise the Fire and Rescue Service is a unique public body that plans for risk not demand and therefore should be funded accordingly."

The Sefton Council motion was passed but Conservative councillors did not vote.

Mr Esterson said: "It is to the credit of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service that it has protected Formby Fire Station from the cuts. The Fire Brigades Union has worked closely with the fire service to protect residents and to retain as many fire fighters as possible. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the public safe as the cuts by the government continue to bite.

“I will fight against attempts to shut Formby Fire Station and will continue to press the case that these cuts are dangerous and should be reversed. Conservative councillors in Sefton have shown that they will not stand up to cuts affecting our communities."

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