Fire services have lost 28% of their fire safety inspectors since 2010, research by the UK Fire Brigade Union (FBU) has revealed.
The union, which has broken down the numbers by fire service in its parliamentary bulletin Fire Safety Matters, has blasted the government’s hands-off approach to regulation and for abandoning responsibility to cash-strapped local authorities.
But the trend apparently began long before 2010 – albeit the pace has since accelerated. The number of inspectors in England and Wales has dropped by 40% in two decades – from 1,724 in 1996-7 to 1,041 today.
The FBU, which obtained the data via a number of freedom of information requests, says the true drop could be steeper still.
“Fire services need proper funding, more inspectors and greater support if they are to continue keeping people safe.” Matt Wrack, general secretary, FBU
The organisation responsible for recording the number of inspectors, HM Inspector of Fire Services in England and Wales, was scrapped in 2000. Since then, the FBU says, data on inspector numbers has been unreliable, with some fire services even unable to produce figures.
Losing 70% of its inspectors, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue has suffered the sharpest drop, while fire services in Gloucestershire, Durham, Cumbria, Norfolk and Avon all lost more than half of their fire safety specialists.
“Fire safety specialists play an essential role in the fire service,” said Mr Wrack. “They help to enforce fire safety regulations that save lives and prevent damage to property. Fire services need proper funding, more inspectors and greater support if they are to continue keeping people safe.
“Grenfell Tower has underlined the importance of fire safety in buildings. The drastic cut in fire safety inspectors makes it much more difficult for those remaining to do their job effectively.
“The government needs to wake up to what endless budget cuts have done to the lifesaving fire service.” He concluded.
A copy of the document ‘Fire Safety Matters’ can be found here www.fbu.org.uk/publication
Image for illustration only
This article first appeared in the IFSEC Global Fire Briefing and has been reproduced with kind permission.