Ministers urged to halt fire service cuts to 'ensure capability not jeopardised'

The Government is being urged to halt cuts to the fire service amid an increasing risk of incidents because of the UK's ageing population and more people renting accommodation.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said there had been a 22% increase in fire-related deaths involving over 65-year-olds in the past two years.

The LGA said ministers should consider the rising over-85 population and increasing numbers of people renting houses when fire service funding was decided.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils and fire authorities in England and Wales, highlighted the latest fire statistics which show that although the overall number of fires has fallen steadily, the rate of decline had slowed and certain types of fire had increased.

Ian Stephens, who chairs the LGA's Fire Services Management Committee, said: "The fact that people are living longer is to be celebrated but this presents a clear and additional risk to fire and rescue services which have had their funding cut by around 40% over a four-year period.

"Projected rises in both the elderly population, including those living alone, and the number of people living in privately rented homes will only increase the risk of more fires putting people's lives in danger.

"Despite an overall fall in fires following successful fire prevention work, certain types of fire, such as deliberate primary fires, are on the rise, which is concerning.

"These trends present a growing risk factor and cannot be ignored.

Chancellor Philip Hammond
Chancellor Philip Hammond has been urged not to make any further fire service cuts (Chris J Ratcliffe/PA)

"We are urging the Chancellor not to make any further reductions to fire service funding in the Autumn Budget to ensure resources and capability are not jeopardised."

The report followed figures published on Thursday showing that the number of firefighters had been cut by more than a fifth over the past decade, leading to claims the country's fire and rescue service was in "crisis".

Government figures showed there were 33,049 firefighters, 4% down on last year (34,395) and 17% fewer than in 2012 (39,678).

The Fire Brigades Union said the number had fallen by 22% compared with 10 years ago (42,385 in 2007), warning that the drop was a "huge threat" to public safety.

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