Former Uckfield firefighter writes about the tragedy of austerity

Observer’s article on Saturday, June 17, regarding the value of the Fire & Rescue Service was a most welcome piece, writes former Uckfield firefighter and watch manager Ian Ritchie.ian-ritchie

Unfortunately, the damage has already been done and Observer’s call for protection of emergency services from austerity has fallen on deaf ears.

Over the past seven years emergency service provision has been reduced to its bare bones as millions of pounds have been slashed from emergency service funding.

Only now, following several tragic events, have the public realised what has been happening to their public services, and I mean all public services, despite the warnings from within regarding the potential dangers.

Yes, there was a reduction in fire deaths nationally, but they are sadly now on the increase.

Politicians would have us believe that this is an unprecedented ‘blip’ and not directly linked to the reduction in people’s socio-economic status brought about by austerity measures combined with longer attendance times to incidents across the country.

Hard work

Yes, there has been a reduction in the number of property fires, due largely to the hard work of service staff in delivering prevention messages and fitting smoke alarms.

However, what the politicians fail to tell us is that they altered their definition of ‘fire’ which reduced the number of recorded incidents overnight by tens of thousands nationally and therefore ‘justified’ the huge cuts to fire service funding since 2010.

The ‘do more with less’ directive from government just confirms how out of touch they really are with the real world and the fact that you can only ‘do less with less’ is becoming glaringly obvious.


I do not claim that the outcome of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire would have been different pre cuts.

However the real tragedy is the fact that it has taken this terrible incident and recent terror atrocities for the public to sit up and at last take note of the effects of cuts to their essential public services.

The links below, to previous Uckfield News stories, show the concerns of local fire crews since 2010:

Uckfield firefighters raise concern over service review

Fire chief challenged on lack of publicity for public meeting

Uckfield Fire Station loses its senior management team

Number of firefighters could be cut in Uckfield

Two firefighter posts to be cut in Uckfield

Firefighters step in as cuts hit West Sussex brigade

Uckfield watch manager speaks out about fire service cuts

More changes ahead for East Sussex Fire and Rescue

• Ian Ritchie retired in September last year after 36 years with East Sussex Fire and Rescue. Read more about him here.

• Read Observer’s column here: Observer: Our firefighters are beyond price.

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