Firefghters warn of danger to public as budget cuts bite

1 June 2022, 15:19 | Updated: 1 June 2022, 15:30

Firefighters are warning of the impact of cuts on their ability to attend blazes
Firefighters are warning of the impact of cuts on their ability to attend blazes. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Firefighters are warning that cuts to budgets by the Scottish Government over the next four years will put communities in danger, as the fallout from the £1.1bn reduction in spending announced by finance minister Kate Forbes has also seen council leaders warn of job losses and massive service cuts.

COSLA, the body which represents all 32 of Scotland's councils, has said the implications of the spending review are "deeply concerning", and along with the Fire Brigades Union are demanding to meet with Forbes and the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The concerns come a day after the Scottish Police Federation said real term cuts to the justice budget, were "brutal" and would lead to station closures, a loss of officers and described the announcement as "a bad day for the public, a good day for criminals."

Kate Forbes admitted she had to make difficult decisions as the Scottish budget faces a £3.5bn blackhole by 2026/27 but that she had ensured that tackling child poverty and reaching net zero would not be derailed.

It has been predicted that the "efficiences" and a return to pre-pandemic staffing levels in the public sector the Scottish Government is aiming for could see the loss of 30,000 jobs across Scotland - and the closure of around 30,000 council and other government properties.

John McKenzie, FBU Scotland regional secretary, said: The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has already suffered the loss of a thousand members of staff, cuts to crewing levels and stagnation of pay.

“The announcement by Kate Forbes shows a zero increase in the budget for the service over the next five years. If enacted this will put our communities and our members who serve them in greater danger.

"The FBU in Scotland will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Justice Secretary to discuss the future funding of the Fire and Rescue service.”

Cosla meanwhile said that spending plans failed to recognise the "fundamental role of local government in addresing the government's priorities of child poverty, climate change and a stronger economy."

It said the "flat cash scenario" would mean "fewer jobs and cuts to services" and was now seeking "an urgent meeting with the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance to discuss this further."

Cosla's resources spokesperson Gail Macgregor said: “Every year at Budget time, Cosla argues for fair funding for local government to maintain the essential services our communities rely on.

"No increase in our core funding damages these services and yesterday’s announcement will see this continue for at least the next three years. Our communities are starting to see and feel the difference.”  

Yesterday, the Fraser of Allander Institute said the impact on councils of the spending review means a "decline by 7% in real terms between 2022/23 and 2026/2" and that it represented "the continuation of a longer trend."

Kate Forbes said the review of spending was in the context of exiting the coronavirus pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and rising inflation.

She also insisted the government had treated local government "fairly".

She added: "We have said one of the primary reasons for doing a resource spending review is to give local government clarity going forwad within those spending parameters.

"I can only spend the funding that is allocated to me by the UK government and in light a 5.2% cut between last year and this year, and an outlook where inflation is eating into our spending power, we have treated local government fairly."

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