Jeff Smith, Labour MP for Manchester Withington, appeared yesterday in the House of Commons ‘virtual chamber’ to urge the Government to give more support to Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
Jeff was taking part in a debate on legislation that would amend the governance and scrutiny of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to make it more effective and efficient, and better joined up with other emergency services.
While supportive of these changes, Jeff emphasised that the new legislation ‘comes at a time when both the police and the fire and rescue authority in Greater Manchester are under a huge amount of pressure’ and must be accompanied by proper funding.
Since 2010, Tory austerity has seen more than £20 million per year removed from the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s budget. Over the same time period, the government grant for GMFRS has reduced from £75.3 million to £52.9 million – a decrease of almost 30%.
In real terms this has meant that the service has lost 16 fire engines, having had 66 in 2010, now down to 50. And according to FBU figures, Greater Manchester lost 624 fire fighters between 2010 and 2019.
At the same time, Greater Manchester’s population has increased by more than 150,000 people, the built environment has become more complex, and the force is dealing with other pressures – first a major high rise block safety project following Grenfell, and now playing a key role in the response to coronavirus.
Jeff again highlighted the impact of coronavirus on local authority budgets, warning that without adequate Government support we could see further reductions to blue light services.
Jeff urged the Government to ‘commit to fully reimbursing local authorities for their losses due to coronavirus’ in the short term, warning that councils ‘simply can’t afford to be hit again’.
Longer term and after dealing with the immediate coronavirus crisis, he asked the Government to ‘make an honest assessment of the levels of funding for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and the police, and increase central funding in order to keep our people safe.’
A full transcript of the debate, including Jeff’s speech, can be viewed here.