Staffordshire has seen the sharpest fall in the number of firefighters in England since the Grenfell Tower disaster, according to the government. At the end of March 2021, the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service had a total of 589 full-time and standby firefighters, the latest available Home Office figures show.
That was a 16.7 per cent drop from 707 four years ago, the last number of employees before the Grenfell fire on 14 June 2017. The number of full-time firefighters fell from 326 to 240 – down 86 – while the number of firefighters on duty fell from 381 to 349.
However, the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service claims the latest figures are inaccurate as there were actually 299 full-time firefighters as of March 2021. The service also says it has sufficient resources to meet current needs.
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Staffordshire is one of more than 20 areas across England where the number of firefighters and control room personnel has fallen since the tragic London Tower fire five years ago that killed 72 people.
The county has seen the largest decline of any 44 fire and emergency services nationwide during that time, according to Interior Department figures. At the London Fire Brigade, the number rose by 45 from 4,799 to 4,844.
Staffordshire Deputy Chief Fire Officer Glynn Luznyj said: “We believe the data quoted is inaccurate. We made a needed reduction of 40 full-time firefighter posts in 2017/18 which was negotiated with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and not achieved replacing people who retired during that time. Our structures have been redesigned to accommodate the changes. However, the safety of firefighters and communities was not affected.
“The number of firefighters on call varies based on the number of hours each individual puts in. However, we have an ongoing recruitment campaign for on-call firefighters and would like to encourage people to consider the role.
“We are confident we have the resources to meet our current needs and we have continued to invest in keeping communities and businesses safe to reduce the likelihood of incidents. This also includes our successful sprinkler project, in which sprinkler systems were installed in high-rise and low-rise buildings throughout the district.”
Across England, the total stood at 36,448 at the end of March last year, 176 down from the 36,624 in March 2017. This was entirely due to the shrinking number of full-time jobs, which fell by 335 over the period.
This was partially offset by an increase of 109 firefighters on call and 50 control staff handling 999 calls. This comes after big cuts in fire and rescue services in the run-up to Grenfell, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said, adding that Britain had already lost more than 11,000 firefighters between 2010 and 2017 – almost one in five jobs.
Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU, said: “Despite the worst home fire in Britain in living memory, the government is failing to change course and take fire safety and the fire service seriously. It’s an insult to the people who lost their lives and it’s an insult to the community of Grenfell. Unfortunately, none of this comes as a surprise.
“The central government has allowed Grenfell to be turned into a fire trap and has done nothing to address the building safety crisis that has since come to light. Still, we shouldn’t lose sight of how heartless one must be to see an incident like Grenfell’s and then continue down that path. You are playing with life.”
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