Since 2010, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service have saved almost £20 million and with a current budget of £31.5m, SCC have agreed to slash a further £6m+ by 2020.
Personnel have been cut to the bone since 2010 with frontline Fire Fighters reducing from 378 to 210 (44%), Control Staff down from 31 to 20 (35%), Incident Commanders down 47% and backroom staff have fallen 30% (2010 to March 2017) and this figure has increased further since then.
A fire engine used to have a minimum of 5 Fire Fighters and maximum 7, but in 2014 SFRS reduced this to a maximum of 4 (the bare minimum required on a fire engine). The ramifications of this have meant that the fire fighters are being stretched to their limit at incidents and have to wait for a 2nd fire appliance to arrive before deploying anybody into a fire for their own personal safety. The stress and pressure that this puts upon Fire Fighters is extreme as a crew of 4 are very limited in what they can do, to make this worse, SFRS are currently trialling vans crewed by 2 Fire Fighters, along with various station closures including Esher, to attempt to meet SCC’s budget cuts by 2020.
It is now a regular occurrence for the county to have 6-7 fire engines unavailable each day due to staff shortages, meaning that appliances have to travel further to get to incidents causing attendance times to increase. Without the good will of fire fighters doing overtime, there would be around 10 appliances unavailable each day/night.
Walton fire station was downgraded to a day manning station meaning that the wholetime crew are there from 0730 -1800 Mon – Fri, with retained Fire Fighters covering outside of these hours. From 30th July – 2nd Sept, the retained appliance was unavailable 77% of the time meaning that the residents of Walton and Hersham would have increased attendance times due to an appliance coming from further afield, Esher and Painshill have also been closed on a regular basis. As an example, one day in late July, one of the hottest days of the year, out of a potential 29 Fire Engines in Surrey, only 15 were crewed, meaning that we have to rely heavily on surrounding brigades for help.
The moral amongst Fire Fighters is currently at rock bottom with many transferring to other brigades, leaving early or seeking new jobs due to high levels of stress, fatigue and a very uncertain future with redundancies looming. Facebook pages have been started for each station by the Fire Fighters to publicise all the great work they do for the public and community, and also to highlight the cuts that are being imposed. This has had an amazing response making national tabloids and radio stations, as well as keeping all local residents up to date with events, incidents and closures. This great response has been met by SCC ordering them to close all Facebook pages, gagging them from speaking out and informing the public of the dangers that they are being put in on a daily basis.
The future of your service is in grave danger, with Surrey facing the biggest funding cuts in England. This is not only putting all of you at risk, but also putting the Fire Fighters own lives in Danger.
Elmbridge has the highest council tax in the country and we do not believe that this should be happening, enough is enough.