The firefighters’ union has accused the government of slashing funding despite a nine per cent increase in the number of fires across England.
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack said firefighters responded to 182,825 fires last year, and are now faced with a “real-terms pay cut”.
“These latest figures confirm what firefighters are feeling on the ground, they are under increasing pressure, responding to more incidents with scarcer resources, as budgets and firefighter numbers continue to be cut,” he said.
“We are deeply concerned that, after massive cuts to fire safety officers and years of fire safety deregulation, there has been a significant increase in fires in England.”
He said climate change has led to long, dry summers that make fires more likely, and rescue services are also being stretched by “a huge number of floods” due to extreme weather.
The FBU said funding for fire and rescue services will fall by £155 million in 2019/20, representing a 15 per cent cut on 2016/17 figures.
Shadow minister for fire services Karen Lee said the government “can't have safety and security on the cheap.”
“Previously, they have attempted to justify cuts to the numbers of firefighters and fire stations on the grounds that call-outs and fires were declining. But the numbers of both call-outs and of fires have been rising for years,” she said.
“The Tories have continued to cut the fire service, and seem to have learnt nothing from the Grenfell tragedy.”
Policing and fire minister Kit Malthouse did not respond in time for publication.