We went to the fabulous wedding of our friends Lisa and David over the weekend, set in Bedwellty, South Wales it was a truly joyous occasion, as watching two people you know should be together publicly declare their love should be. The welcome for the English contingent was warm and generous, the church service not only solemn, but great fun. The only spot of bother would predictably be the weather.
The rain simply would not let up over the valleys – at times it was a struggle to see a landmark as close and as large as The Chartist Bridge. We were all incredibly lucky of course – all we had to put up with was a little dampness and wind, rather than flooded homes and workplaces, so there will be no grousing from me. Travelling back along the M4 on Sunday, you could see a little of the damage done – burst river banks and flooded pastures mainly. The news told the rest, or nearly all of it…
…The government, and the media have, as usual praised the unstinting efforts of local councils and the emergency services in the struggle to save life and property. Much has been made of the improvements in emergency planning made over the past few years, and rightly so, given the parsimony of the Coalitions’ austerity spending plans. Yet with floods, the main emergency workers who bust a gut are the Fire Service – the ones with hoses, pumps, ladders etc. Yes, that means members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
The cuts have hit Firefighters across the UK, and the South West has been no exception to this. So far, everything has worked pretty well, mainly thanks to teamwork and professionalism, yet post-2010 cut mean that Firefighters at all levels have serious concerns as to whether in the future they won’t be overstretched. The only reason that people in the South West have been able to rely on the Fire service because extra engines and Firefighters have been available from other regions. Should there be a wider flooding crisis in these other regions, this will not be the case. As the Association of Chief Fire Officers has already warned, future cuts, leading to the potential loss of 4,000 Firefighters, sixty stations and around 150 engines make such sharing of force much more difficult, especially if the UK were to have to deal with two regional crises at the same time.
Today Matt Wrack, the FBU leader has written to David Cameron, once again highlighting the Firefighters concerns. I doubt that Ham-Face will take any notice. After all, he leads a party that once counted Brian Coleman as a leading member in London. You remember Brian – he said that “we need to break the FBU, frankly…” , as if this would make up for cutting numbers of staff and engines in London.
I am sure that the cabinet are all distressed about the floods – after all no one could be more distraught at having to dehumidify their holiday homes. No doubt these blustering puppets will heap praise upon the Fire Service until the waters subside, then get back to cutting numbers and buggering up their pensions. Of course, once the FBU start to campain over this in earnest, they will be branded extremists and wreckers by this extremist, wrecking coalition.