THE BATTLE between firefighters and councillors over budget cuts looks set to continue after both sides vowed they would not back down.

At least £300,000 has been spent on Green Goddess vehicles during strike action so far, but the Combined Fire Authority (CFA) said it would not increase the fire service budget and would not give in to fire crews.

And despite taking strike action into its fourth week, Essex firefighters have vowed to continue to fight the CFA until the £1.2 million budget cut is revoked and 16 firefighter jobs are reinstated.

Loading article content

Speaking to Harlow fire crews on Thursday, National Fire Brigades Union (FBU) General Secretary Ken Cameron said: ``There have been no concrete offers made of any substance and we will strike for as long as it takes. There seems to be an attempt to starve our members back to work. But the insults and threats from councillors are adding to our determination."

Referring to overwhelming public support for Essex firefighters, Mr Cameron said the ``incompetent" councillors should ``take notice" of their electorate before lives were lost.

Essex FBU chairman Graham Noakes said fire crews were still willing to talk to the CFA.

He said: ``There is no compromise in standards of fire cover. But if the CFA makes us a reasonable offer then we will discuss it."

CFA chairman Tony Wright admitted the £300,000 could have been spent on the fire service, but said all CFA members were not prepared to do that.

He said: ``If somebody gave me a million pounds I would spend it on social services rather than the FBU. I do not think the FBU deserve the money. We gave in to the FBU last year and if we lose this time it will keep coming back year after year. We're not going to give in to big bullies."

Mr Wright would not rule out "some sort of compromise", but added: ``The budget is set and there is no more money."

He said the CFA was ``trying to be fair" when it offered to save 20 firefighter posts and retain Chelmsford's aerial ladder platform, but that fire crews had ``rebuffed" these concessions. He warned that he would not rule out sacking fire crews if disputes continued.

Essex fire crews will take further industrial action today (Wednesday) from 9am to 6pm and for 24 hours from Friday at 6pm to Saturday at 6pm.~

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000.Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.