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Mike Hill MP: Public services suffering with cost over quality in private sector

Cleveland Fire Brigade has suffered cuts in recent years.
Cleveland Fire Brigade has suffered cuts in recent years.

I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Armed Forces Day event on the Headland.

As usual there was a variety of things to see – the veterans, cadets and armed forces members did us all proud, so too did the Headland Local History Group, who organised much of it.

Given the England v Sweden match was on the afternoon, the National Anthem was noticeably sung with much vim and gusto during the blessing of the new Standard, which unfortunately went AWOL, presumed stolen, during the event.

Despite that it was a great day, and once again the hidden gem called the Heugh Battery was resplendent in its glory, as were England later in the day.

As the Lord Lieutenant of Durham, Sue Snowden said: “The nation owes a great deal of gratitude to all men and women of the armed forces.”

And I agree with every word, but they are noticeably being eroded and undermined by cuts to the ranks, and to their budgets.

Of great concern to me also is the continuing trend to privatise military support services, the latest being military fire and rescue which has just been handed over to Capita.

What on earth has this major outsourcing company got to do with any kind of firefighting, other than to protect their position in running failing Government contracts like PIP and ESA assessments? It really is atrocious and just shows the Government has learnt nothing from the Carillion scandal.

Public services are suffering because Ministers place cost over quality when outsourcing them to the private sector.

The collapse of Carillion exposed flaws and ‘seriously damaged’ confidence in how the Government awards £250billion of contracts each year according to MPs.

On the subject of firefighting, I really don’t feel sorry for Theresa May, who clearly is having to do that in light of ministerial resignations, noticeably David Davies and Boris Johnson, following her failed attempt to unify the Cabinet at Chequers over Brexit.

I do pay tribute to the real firefighters from Cleveland Fire Brigade who have been deployed to assist Greater Manchester and Lancashire Fire and Rescue services in combatting the terrible fires on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill.

Nine personnel and two appliances have gone to help with the disaster and all credit to the brigade for answering the call for assistance alongside colleagues from up and down the country.

Such comradery, co-operation and genuine desire to help and assist in times of need is typically British. Often, it’s people from our public services who think nothing of going the extra mile to help people in need in the face of national and international emergencies, like doctors, nurses and firefighters.

Therefore, I’m not surprised in the least that the first voices heard by the 12 boys and their football coach trapped in the cave in Thailand were those of British divers.

Firefighters are responsible for rapid deployment to fires, floods, terrorist incidents, civil disturbances, industrial explosions, train accidents and other emergencies across the UK.

Last year, over 500 frontline firefighter jobs were lost during another dreadful year of cuts despite the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Since 2010, the number of firefighters in the Cleveland Fire Service has been reduced by 176, or 28%, according to the FBU.

Our brigades are clearly overstretched and yet, like with all emergency services, they keep on going the extra mile, like they are doing on the Lancashire moors and did so during the Cumbrian floods, it’s about time that was recognised instead of services being taken for granted by the Government.