THE Fire Brigades Union is urging the public in Devon and Somerset to protest against 'the most savage cuts ever' to the fire and rescue service, after preliminary budget figures were announced yesterday (January 10).

The government has reduced its grant to the service by 10.3% for the year 2013/14 and 7.3% for the year 2014/15. This equates to a loss of £3.4 million in the next financial year and £2.1 million in 2014/15.

On January 18, the fire authority and senior managers will put forward proposals for public consultation, to include a set of cuts that would likely see fire appliances removed from communities.

Trevor French, Devon and Somerset FBU secretary said: “Rather than just accept these enormous cuts forced upon us by central government, the fire authority should tell the coalition government that this scale of cuts is unacceptable, risks destroying the fabric of this important service, and ultimately puts more lives at risk."

As a rural service and one of the biggest in the country, Devon and Somerset have long argued that a ‘sparsity’ factor should be included in any grant settlement received. This would take into account the lack of neighbouring services for support and the sheer scale of area that has to be covered by one fire and rescue service.

Bob Walker, FBU brigade chair said: “If the cuts proposed go through, there will be fewer firefighters, fewer fire stations and fewer fire engines. After the recent floods and fires firefighters have dealt with so professionally, the cuts would be a real kick in the teeth for both the public and the service. The FBU is asking people in our communities to stand up against damaging proposals for the fire and rescue service before it is too late.”