FIRE FIGHTER STRENGTH HAS FALLEN BY A THIRD
Bucks fire service says it has had to ‘find ways of making do with less’
BUCKINGHAMSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service has moved to reassure members of the public after government figures revealed a fall in firefighter numbers in the last five years.
Workforce numbers, released by the Home Office, reveal that in Buckinghamshire firefighter strength fell by a third from 2011 – the second biggest decrease in England.
According to the figures, in 2011 Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service had 555 full-time (FTE) firefighters while in 2016 there were 381 – a 31.3% drop.
It is proportionally the second biggest drop across the country after Cambridgeshire that has a 31.5% fewer firefighters.
To get the FTE numbers, full-time officers and staff are counted as one, and part-time are counted according to the proportion of full-time worked. For example, a firefighter working 60% of full-time hours is counted as 0.6.
So overall head count is likely to be higher than the FTE number.
In 2016 Buckinghamshire had 259 full-time firefighters and the equivalent of 122 on-call firefighters.
These on-call or ‘retained’ firefighters have the same training as fulltime workers but are not employed full-time by the department.
A Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said the service has had no fire station closures and has the same number of fire appliances
The spokesman said the latest figure does not reflect the fact there are currently 20 firefighter apprentices who have almost completed their first year and there have been no firefighter redundancies.
They added: “In the face of several years of cuts to our budget, we have had to find ways of making do with less, rather than doing less.”
In England the FTE number of firefighters has decreased by 16% since 2011 from 41,171 to 34,395.
The total FTE number of support and fire control staff was 7,952, 18% lower than five years beforehand.
Almost every fire department around the country apart from Suffolk and Cornwall has seen a drop in firefighter strength during this time.