Playing with FIRE

Flood evacuation practice at Stoke Goldington'''Wk 10   MPMC PNL-140813-163941001
Flood evacuation practice at Stoke Goldington'''Wk 10 MPMC PNL-140813-163941001

Striking firefighters say the lives of people across the city are being put at risk by fire bosses trying to make a “political point”.

While firefighters across the UK are currently holding a series of mini-strikes of up to three hours in a dispute over pensions, Milton Keynes crews are striking for entire eight-hour shifts.

They say they are being forced to do so because the city’s fire authority has a ban on “partial payments” –so any firefighters who return to complete their shifts after a mini-strike will not be paid a penny.

One Milton Keynes firefighter said: “There is no doubt that lives are at risk.

“No one wants a disaster to happen, but it’s the only thing that will highlight the situation.

“It could be my child in that house fire tomorrow.”

Another fireman said: “Every second counts, so if you have got one or two trucks for the whole of Milton Keynes you are not going to get there in time.

“It will just take one major fire to happen for it to all go horribly wrong.”

The Fire Brigades Union has called 45 periods of strike action nationally in this long-running dispute over pensions, which began in December.

The fire service strongly refutes claims that there will only be two fire engines left to cover the whole city.

They told the Citizen that contingency plans are in place, but declined to reveal exactly what they are.

Mick Osborne, deputy chief fire officer, said: “Contingency arrangements that are provided by our own professional crews are in place. They are strong contingency plans and we are happy with them.

“We have adequate resources available for Milton Keynes, and if anything beyond the norm happens, we have more resources at our disposal from other areas.

“All calls received within Bucks and MK have received an appropriate response and been resolved safely.”

James Wolfenden, Bucks FBU’s regional secretary, said: “They have deliberately chosen to put residents in unnecessary danger, presumably in order to make a political point.

He said the strike action, which ends on Sunday, totalled 24 hours but because of the part-payment rule city firefighters will be forced out of action for 168 hours.