Mike Hill: Fire service cuts compromise safety

Cleveland Fire Brigade is looking to recruit retained firefighters.
Cleveland Fire Brigade is looking to recruit retained firefighters.

I can’t help but shake my head in dismay at the bitter irony of Cleveland Fire Brigade launching a recruitment drive this week to attract more retained firefighters to their ranks.

Now, let me state quite categorically that anyone who is a retained firefighter has my absolute admiration. They do an incredible job for our communities, but they must never be seen as a substitute for full-time firefighters.

The bid to get more volunteers comes just days after the Tories laughed and jeered at a Labour amendment that would have stopped the savage cutes in the fire service that have been happening over the last seven years.

The cuts in firefighters and civilian staff in the Cleveland area have been nothing short of disgraceful.

But not only are these fearless men and women having their jobs swept aside, they have had pensions attacked and the pay cap means most of them are earning less in real terms than they were before the Tories came to power.

There is another factor that the general public don’t really see; the average age of fire crews has risen dramatically.

I have no doubt that even the oldest firefighters in Cleveland are very fit and more than capable, but if I was in a burning building I would much prefer a big, strapping, super-fit 30-year-old to be coming to my rescue than an older firefighter who is not as fit or as strong as they once were.

The Fire Brigades’ Union has this week released figures showing the cuts over the last seven years.

These cuts compromise public safety. There is no justification for it and Conservative politicians laughing at Labour’s attempts to bring these cuts to an end brings shame on their party.

Meanwhile, it was an absolute pleasure and an honour to attend the Armed Forces Day event at the Headand.

The military parade was fantastic, as we have come to expect, but there were a couple of other attractions I would like to mention.

The RNLI stand reminded me how much our coastal towns relies on these volunteers and we will always be in their debt.

My umpteenth visit to the Haugh Battery also reminded me once again that we don’t shout loud enough about this jewel of a tourist attraction.

I am already eagerly looking forward to this Saturday’s Durham Miners’ Gala. I have only missed one in the last 17 years, but this one will be poignant as it will be my first as an MP.

Never when I have listened to MPs speaking at the gala in the past did I ever imagine I would be an MP myself.

I will feel very proud and humble to be there.