1. ITV Report

Firefighters protest against cuts

Firefighters in Essex will today hold the first of five planned strikes in a dispute over cuts.

The Fire Brigades Union said its members plan to take industrial action today and on July 7 and 18, August 18 and October 18. Today's strike is due to start at 10am and end at 6pm.

The union said the county will have lost one in five frontline firefighters since 2008 if a current round of planned cuts goes ahead.

Alan Chinn-Shaw, chairman of the FBU's Essex branch, said: "This is about cuts to frontlinefirefighters and changes imposed on firefighters. We've had enough and the cuts are now directly impacting on public and firefighter safety.

"The recent highly provocative removal of key fire engines and vital rescue equipment contradicts the fire authority claim that it is being reasonable. This two-faced approach has gone on for three years and enough is enough."

Essex firefighters voted by 2-1 in favour of strikes following almost three years of action short of a strike over cuts.

In a statement, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said contingency plans had been put in place.

Chief Fire Officer David Johnson said more than 100 firefighters had signed "resilience contracts" guaranteeing their availability during periods of staff shortage and members of the retained fire service have indicated they will continue to provide cover.

Mr Johnson had hoped the strikes could be avoided but added these hopes were based on an "assumption of reasonableness".

We have offered the FBU a number of assurances and have agreed to a number of their demands."He added that contingency plans meant about 30 out of 70 appliances would continue to operate.I don't believe the public will notice any difference in our level of service,

– Chief Fire Officer, David Johnson