Local MP Steve McCabe has voted to revoke the government’s ‘Firefighter’s Pension Regulations’ after he joined several other Labour front benchers in signing an Early Day Motion to secure a Parliamentary Debate.
Despite this the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are still pushing through the measure which has been branded as unworkable and unfair.
Station Commander Wesley Williams and his Watch from Billesley Fire Station thanked Steve for his continued support and outlined some of their concerns over recent changes to their pensions and the effects of drastic cuts in government funding.
During Steve’s visit the Firefighters at Billesley Fire Station made clear that they thought the new scheme was both dangerous and unfair. They also expressed their concerns that severe cuts in government funding are leading to extreme pressures on the service and potentially putting the public at risk. West Midlands Fire Authority is set to lose £27 million or 36% of its government grant funding during the period 2011-2016. This grant accounts for 70% of its total budget.
The number of fire engines in the West Midlands has also been reduced from 61 to 41 with the shortfall made up by smaller ‘brigade response’ vehicles. The Firefighters at Billesley Fire Station told Steve these vehicles are not always appropriate for the duties they are required to perform. Other decisions forced by extreme financial pressures such as stopping routine hydrant tests may also be putting the public at increased risk.
Billesley Fire Station was subject to a threat of closure only a few years ago but the plans were dropped after a vigorous campaign by Steve McCabe MP and local people.
Steve said:“It was great to meet Wesley and the Watch at Billesley Fire Station but it really highlighted just how unfair and unworkable the Government’s Firefighters’ Pension Regulations are. It is ridiculous to expect firefighters who are 60 to have the same fitness levels as those in their 20s, the government is risking public safety and putting the lives of our firefighters at risk.
“Firefighters are also having to grapple with cuts to their budgets meaning that they do not always have the equipment they need to do their job. Firefighters risk their lives to save ours and they deserve better than this.”
Under the new ‘Firefighters pension regulations’ the age at which a firefighter can draw their full pension will rise to 60 despite the fact that a recent government report has indicated that two thirds will not be able to meet the fitness requirements of the job by this age. This leaves many firefighters with an impossible decision between stopping work early and losing out on a full pension or facing dismissal on the grounds of being unfit for work. Firefighters are still entitled to take early retirement before 60 but a firefighter retiring at 55 will lose out on 21.8% of their pension and 13.9% at 57.