BUDGET cuts are slowly undermining the effectiveness of fire services in England and Wales, the head of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.
Fire services’ budgets in England have been cut by 17% since 2010, according to National Audit Office figures.
And a BBC Radio 5live investigation has found response times in some areas have got worse in 2016, which the FBU’s Matt Wrack says is putting lives at risk.
Fire minister Brandon Lewis said fire services had sufficient resources.
According to 5live Investigates, austerity cuts since 2010 have resulted in 3,382 fewer fire fighters, station closures and some appliances being taken off the road.
Until last year the government published average times for brigades to get a first response vehicle to a house fire – the type of incident that claims most lives.
Figures suggested four out of five brigades had seen worsening average response times between 2009/10 and 2014/15.
The government has not updated those figures.
However, 5live Investigates made a Freedom of Information request to all 48 fire brigades in England and Wales for the figures for 2015 and the first six months of 2016.
Out of the total number of brigades 27 responded, with the data suggesting 17 had seen a further deterioration in response times to house fires.
In Cambridgeshire, the average response time in 2015 was 9.24 minutes. In the first half of 2016, it had increased to 12 minutes.
In Suffolk, the average response time for a call-out to a house fire had been 10 minutes. This year, it was 13 minutes.
Meanwhile, in Essex, the average response time increased from 6.47 minutes in 2015 to eight minutes.
Mr Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “There is very long-standing evidence that the longer it takes to get to incidents, the more likely people are injured or killed.