We need to talk about the treatment of public service workers. This is a subject that was and continues to be at the forefront of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour campaign and work. It's a subject which has been at the centre of tory cuts for over 7 years. I want to talk in particular about the fire service, the work they do and the to be frank, abysmal wage they receive in return for risking their lives day in day out to save and protect people in society.
We watched as a horrific fire engulfed the 27 floor tower block in West London yesterday in a way that no building should in 2017 in the richest borough in the United Kingdom, a country with some of the worlds stricted fire safety regulations. We heard unbelievable stories of rescue and survival, pictures of exhausted fire fighters who had worked through the night and scenes of hope and unity as the communities of London rallied around to ensure those who needed help got help and those who needed a listening ear had one.
Over 250 fire fighters flooded to the tower, the first arriving 6 minutes after the first call. Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade described the fire as the worst she's seen in her career of almost 30 years, she also described facing the decision of sending crews into the building to save those begging for help from the windows of the nightmare blaze. Fire fighters are in their nature, extremely modest and humble beings and that remains to show.
The starting salary for a trainee fire fighter is just £22,017 which is over £4,000 shy of the average wage in the UK, once training is complete it rises to £29,345 which is an improvement but still less than London Tube Drivers, Sandwich Shop Managers and Immigration Officers, for example. It simply does not commute that people who's job and passion is to save and protect their fellow humans against one of the most aggressive forces in daily life are paid so little.
Not only this Boris Johnson as Mayor of London in 2014 slashed London fire services by closing 10 fire stations across the capital and putting an end to 552 jobs when challenged he simply told Labour Assembly Leader Andrew Dismore to 'get stuffed'. Upon the closure of the stations, fire fighters wept in despair at the cuts being opposed on them making their jobs harder and it has recently been suggested that there has been a 15% increase in fire-related deaths as a result of cuts across the UK.
There have been so many government led attacks on funding and rights of police, health and fire services over the last 7 years. One nurse recently challenged the Theresa May over pay on a special edition of Question Time in the run up to the election and the Prime Minister simply waved her arms about and mumbled something about not having a magic money tree she can shake. According to reports Theresa May declared Austerity is over to her MP's in a recent meeting, that remains to be seen and I, like many will remain to be wary of such a declaration.
We often take public services for granted until we need them. One day you're well, working and standing but you're only a day away from needing the welfare system, the NHS, police assistance or the fire service and that needs to be recognised by us and especially by those in power. It's time to start treating those who risk their life and wellbeing daily and save hundreds and thousands of lives a year with the respect, care and compassion they really deserve.