Manchester fire service cuts 'would put public at risk'

Budget cuts to Greater Manchester Fire Service will result in call-out delays, putting the public at "greater risk", the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.

Greater Manchester - which has the country's highest number of deaths in accidental house fires - has to make £23m of cuts over the next four years.

FBU chairman Gary Keary said it had "serious concerns" over the cuts, which would "impact on the public's safety".

Fire officer Steve McGuirk said the FBU's figures were "out of context".

'Major issues'

Mr Keary said: "The union has serious concerns that fewer fighters and fire engines is putting the public and firefighters at greater risk.

"In the Trafford Borough, which is the worst hit, there will be 40% fewer fire engines and up to 50% less firefighters.

"In particular, we have major issues about the time it will take for the second fire engines to get to the scene."

However, Mr McGuirk played down the statistics published by the FBU.

He said: "For example, when they identify 'slower response times' in each location, they imply a significant delay when, in reality, we are talking a matter of seconds.

"This is because we are not closing stations or removing 'first appliances', so the current response times for the vast majority of incidents will largely remain the same."

He added: "Sadly, we cannot make this kind of reduction without changes to our operational response."

The chair of Greater Manchester's Fire Authority, Councillor David Acton, said: "They will probably be within 30 seconds slower in the main, but at the end of the day we have to find the money from somewhere.

"We have already cut £10m from senior management and the back office, but now we face the front line."

The consultation period over the proposed cuts ends on 23 January.

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