As you are aware, on Sunday the 24th June, Greater Manchester firefighters were called to a fire on Saddleworth Moor. As the fire spread, largely due to unusually hot weather combined with the moors’ flammable peat, firefighters from across the country worked day and night battling the fire and consequently, police declared the Saddleworth Moor fire to be a major incident.
Over 300 firefighters, joined by the police service, army and local agencies battled these Moorland fires in Saddleworth and Tameside. They courageously fought the Moorland fire in incredibly difficult terrain and weather conditions. Due to the severe nature of the incident, the Army was also drafted in to provide support.
The Fire Brigades Union has said Firefighters were working 17 hour shifts without a break in order to tackle aggressive moorland fires. The union was concerned about the lack of available crews to relieve firefighters. Fears were raised over fire services having to rely upon donations for basic supplies. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue requested donations of sun cream, insect repellent, caps and socks while Lancashire Fire and Rescue asked for soft track vehicles to deliver supplies to firefighters. The response from volunteers and residents in supporting our fire services has been immense.
Despite the exceptional circumstances of this fire, it is not right that our fire services had to react with reduced resources and budgets. Greater Manchester has seen firefighters been cut by 35% (700) since 2010 with a 12% funding cut expected by 2020, and Lancashire has seen firefighters cut by 24% (314) with a 14% funding cut during the same period. The Lancashire fire service were also battling a fire in Moorlands at Winter Hill.
Last month, at Prime Minister’s Questions, I asked Theresa May if she would allocate contingency funds in recognition of the major incident and the huge impact on local resources. And in his Urgent Question, Jonathan Reynolds MP called on the Government to give all the support possible, including financial support to our fire services, to tackle the serious fires on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill in Greater Manchester and Lancashire. The Government must commit to provide such funds.
I also wrote to the Minister of State for Policing and Fire Service, Nick Hurd MP, demanding that firefighters on Saddleworth Moor, and Winter Hill in Bolton, are be given more resources and that he reconsiders plans to reduce the local government settlement fund to the Greater Manchester and Lancashire fire authorities.
I co-signed the letter with Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde. I demanded that the government respond by ensuring our fire services are adequately resourced. But all we hear from the Government is warm words.
That’s just not good enough, especially the you compare it to the amazing response from the general public to requests for donations of sun cream, insect repellent, caps and socks, and even soft tracked vehicles. The firefighters, and the public, are doing their bit, now the Government needs to step up to the plate and act now and for the long term to show they understand the severity of the situation.
In the letter, I pointed out that Greater Manchester has seen firefighters cut by 35% (700) since 2010 with a 12% funding cut expected by 2020. And Lancashire has seen firefighters cut by 24% (314) with a 14% funding cut during the same period. I asked the minister to commit to reassessing the projected reduction in local government settlement funding provided to the Greater Manchester and Lancashire fire authorities in response to the Saddleworth Moor fire.
My letter ends by saying that this incident has shown that we must support our emergency and public services, particularly during these exceptional, potentially catastrophic events.
These incidents over this Summer have shown how we must be better equipped to support our emergency and public services and the Government must take notice and act in the interest of the safety of the public.