Fire service cuts to ‘put lives at risk’

Shaun Woodward MP with Eccleston fire crew
Shaun Woodward MP with Eccleston fire crew

LIVES will be put at risk if a St Helens fire station is forced to close, according to Shaun Woodward.

The MP for St Helens South and Whiston claims that a second wave of fire service funding cuts would lead to “a tragedy certain to happen” - with Eccleston Fire Station singled out by fire bosses as being at risk of closure.

Mr Woodward said: “Unless the Government face up to the impact of their spending cuts, the Fire Authority would be left with no choice other than to close three fire stations in Merseyside.

“The worst cut would be in Eccleston because it would mean that people living in Rainford could face delays up to 15 minutes. Whether it is a house fire or someone trapped in a vehicle collision on the East Lancs road, that could well mean the difference between life and death.”

In a debate in Parliament, Mr Woodward urged fire service minister Bob Neil MP to call for a cabinet rethink.

He said: “I have no doubt that this will put lives at risk. If a number of people die in an out-of-control fire in a school or business, an inquiry will be demanded.

“In Merseyside, we used to have nearly 1,400 firefighters - we are now down to 880, and shortly it will be 800. The coming cuts will drive us down to 650.

“Further cuts will be made to fire stations. The question is whether it is safe to go further.”

Mr Woodward, whose view is shared by the Fire Brigades Union, added: “Eccleston Fire Station serves 21,000 households - many of them disproportionately old - 15 primary schools, three secondary schools and two colleges.

“I asked the chief fire officer how long it would take for the two engines from St Helens to get to parts of Rainford. He said 15 minutes. That is five minutes more than what everybody knows is necessary to save lives.”

Merseyside Fire Authority already has £9m worth of budget cuts to cope with by 2013 and is expected to be asked to save a further £8.5m from 2013 to 2015.

Fire chiefs named Eccleston on list of five stations at risk of closure because of budget cuts’.

Dan Stephens, the region’s chief fire officer, said: “The authority and myself are lobbying the Government against the proposed cuts. Merseyside was cut at twice the national average.”