CHESHIRE Fire Service has seen a year-on-year increase in fire-related deaths, injuries and response times since 2010, alongside 179 firefighter job-losses.

The Fire Brigade Union has hit out at the service’s bosses, saying ‘relentless budget cuts’ are jeopardising the safety of the public.

According to Government statistics, since 2010, 179 firefighter jobs have been lost in Cheshire, going from 524 to 325. The number of fire-related deaths has gone from one in 2009/10 to eight in 2016/17; non-fatal injuries caused by fire has risen from 75 in 2009/10 to 152 in 2016/17; and average response times has gone from seven minutes and 22 seconds in 2010/11 to nine minutes and 54 seconds in 2016/17.

Andrew Fox-Hewitt, brigade secretary for the FBU in Cheshire, said: “Since 2010, we have lost more than 170 full-time firefighters in n Turn to page 5 Cheshire and response times have increased significantly meaning it takes us a lot longer to arrive at incidents.

“Each year the number of people injured in fires is rising and, tragically, over the last four years, there has been an increase in deaths. It is no coincidence that this is happening at a time when budgets are being relentlessly cut.”

While cuts have continued to be made each year by Cheshire Fire Service, the amount of money that the service is holding in reserve has increased annually from £12 million in 2010/11 to £36.7 million in 2016/17.

A spokesman for the FBU said: “We see a year on year underspend across the service, with huge savings in service delivery, only to see the ‘savings’ transferred into capital reserves.

“Capital reserves are then used to finance what our members view as ostentatious projects such as the safety centre or the proposed new training centre.

“To spend more than £9 million on a new training facility to improve fire fighter safety when we only have four riders on our fire engines is nonsensical.”

Since 2015, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service has had four firefighters for each full-time fire engine, instead of the traditional crew of five.

“We urge Cheshire Fire Authority to look at the number of fire engines that are unavailable to respond to communities on a daily basis and look at the alarming and consistent trends seen over the past five years,” Andrew added.

“The fire authority needs to use the millions of pounds of cash reserves it is sitting on, made off the backs of our member’s jobs, to invest in our people to make sure we have a robust and resilient response model.”

Cheshire Fire Service did not provide a comment.