Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim, Roy Beggs, has warned that proposed cuts of just under 10% to the budget of the Northern Ireland Fire Service could potentially put lives at risk.
Mr Beggs said:
“I have nothing but respect for the men and women of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. They put their lives on the line to save others; there can be few more noble causes. Cuts to their budget of around 10% are worrying for management and front-line staff. It’s disappointing that the Health Minister does not view our Fire Service as an essential front-line emergency service.
“Budget cuts must not compromise public safety. The Minister’s proposed cuts will impact on response times and will undoubtedly put lives at risk.
“The worrying lack of clarity around the future of the Fire Service budget is making it extremely difficult for management to plan for next year. This is made even harder when their colleagues in Services in the rest of the UK have the ability to plan their budgets for the next five years and are actively doing so.
“I have been a consistent supporter of the men and women of our Fire Service and want them to be helped, not hampered by Government. In particular I want to see continued support for their successful large animal rescue scheme which I know is saving rural lives.
“You cannot stretch people who are committed to their job and community beyond breaking point and I urge the Minster of Health to think again about his proposed budget cuts. Before any decisions are finalised he needs to meet with the front-line fire fighters and listen to their opinion – they save lives – a 10% budget cut will damage the service and put lives at risk.”