FBU slams Huntingdon mayor who called firefighters ‘selfish’ after EACH fundraiser was cancelled due to strikes

Jo Colbert, EACH partnerships manager for Cambridgeshire and North Essex, at the top of the tower in

Jo Colbert, EACH partnerships manager for Cambridgeshire and North Essex, at the top of the tower in Huntingdon. - Credit: Archant

Huntingdon’s mayor has described the strike action by firefighters as selfish after the industrial action caused a charity fundraiser to be cancelled.

The town’s fire station had been due to host a charity abseil this Saturday (August 16), raising money for the mayor’s charities and the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.

But an ongoing dispute between the Government and the country’s firefighters over pensions and the retirement age of a firefighter has seen the event halted by strike action.

The Fire Brigades Union’s (FBU) members have been on strike this week, twice each day, with the action set to continue on Saturday.

Huntingdon Mayor Councillor Bill Hensley contacted The Hunts Post to say: “They’re putting themselves first rather than others. It now looks like we won’t be raising money for children – it’s very selfish.

“I would have thought locally that they could have opted out of the strike for two hours while they helped with the abseil. It’s my personal view that firefighters should not be allowed to strike.”

The event was to be hosted by EACH with fundraisers, including deputy mayor Tanya Forster, set to abseil from the practice tower on Hartford Road.

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A spokesman for EACH said: “We had to cancel because of strike action plans by the fire services and because there’s going to be picket lines.”

It already had a similar event planned in Cambridge in October and said anyone who missed out on the Huntingdon event could attend.

Cllr Hensley added that he believed the firefighters were losing public support with their lengthy strike action.

Jamie Wyatt, FBU regional secretary for East Anglia, said the mayor’s comments were ill-conceived.

“Firefighters are far from ‘selfish’, they regularly put themselves in the most extreme and environmentally dangerous situations to provide selfless service to the communities and firefighters are often praised for those acts by politicians.

“But firefighters are locked in a long-running dispute with the Government over proposals that will see them work longer, pay more and get less from the pensions that they signed up for when they joined the service.

“Penny Mordaunt, the senior Government minister with responsibility for fire and rescue cancelled a meeting with the FBU that was planned for Thursday, a meeting that could have seen a halt called to the strikes. This is where the blame really lies and not with the firefighters who have done everything they can to avoid taking industrial action and were left with no other option.

“If the mayor is genuinely concerned about the impact of the nationally-called dispute, and not just trying to score political points, then the FBU would welcome him putting forward his concerns to Penny Mordaunt and tell her to enter into genuine negotiations to put an end to this industrial action.”

The Cambridge event will take place at the Guildhall on October 19. For more, visit www.each.org.uk.