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Government 'ignoring Grenfell warning signs'

Firefighters attending more incidents than ever - but cuts to the service continue

FIREFIGHTERS' leaders accused the government of ignoring the warning signs of Grenfell today, as new figures showed a rise in incidents amid continued fire service cuts.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said that, despite mounting difficulties over the last year, the government continued to "starve" fire authorities of funding.

There were 564,827 incidents in England in the past year, an increase of more than 4,000.

Firefighters attended more than 167,000 fires, the most since 2011-12, said the FBU, adding that the long period of improvements in public safety has plateaued, with cuts the "most likely explanation" for the rise.

The union said that, since 2010, one in five firefighting jobs have been cut, including around 10,000 in England.

FBU national officer Dave Green said: "These dreadful new figures confirm firefighters' worst fears. Austerity cuts are now damaging public safety.

"For years, politicians have slashed our service and excused their actions because long-term improvements were still being made.

"Now their figures show the public is at greater risk. The Grenfell Tower fire should have been a wake-up call.

"The Westminster government should have reacted by investing in the fire and rescue service, but instead they just keep on cutting.

"Firefighters have lost complete confidence in this Tory government. They are putting the public at risk, while wrecking a well-respected, professional public service."

Labour's shadow fire and emergencies minister Karen Lee added: "With fire and rescue services attending thousands more incidents in the last year it's clear we need investment not cuts to our services.

"Swingeing cuts to staffing and funding capacities means that our hard-working fire service is once again expected to do more with less."

She said a Labour government would recruit 3,000 more firefighters and ensure that the fire service is properly supported to keep our communities safe.

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