McArthur: Further cuts would put fire service at risk

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur has today warned that ministers must ensure firefighters have the resources they need to deliver a high quality service after a new report from the Auditor General highlighted the financial pressures on the service and a huge maintenance bill.

The report Scottish Fire and Rescue Service: An Update, produced by the Auditor General, says that:

  • The SFRS has a capital investment backlog of £389 million, describing it as "insurmountable without transforming its current model for delivering services and additional investment";
  • The SFRS' budget has fallen by 12% between 2013/14 and 2018/19 in real terms;
  • The indications are that demands on the SFRS are increasing;
  • "On average, 20 retained firefighters or volunteer staff leave the SFRS every month", with the report describing the current model as "no longer fit for purpose".

Responding to the report, Mr McArthur said:

"This report does not shy away from the financial pressures bearing down on the fire service.

"Since the SNP's merger more than 1000 firefighters have been lost and we have seen fire chiefs warn that the funding squeeze is the equivalent of hundreds more posts going in the coming year. The retained firefighter system, which provides cover to most of Scotland, is under real pressure and in need of modernisation.

"There are also questions about where the almost £400m needed to maintain and invest in the service's property, vehicles and equipment is going to come from.

"While it’s right that the fire service consider the best use of resources in the face of changing demands, ministers must recognise that heaping further cuts on the service would put it at risk. They must give firefighters and staff the resources they need to deliver a high quality service."

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