“Low pay and tighter budgets” may be the reason for dozens of Oxfordshire firefighters leaving the service last year.

Across England, a record number of firefighters left the industry last year – as unions remain embroiled in a pay dispute during the cost-of-living crisis.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said low pay alongside tighter budgets is to blame for workers leaving the industry.

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Home Office figures show 69 full-time and on-call firefighters left the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in 2021-22, down from 70 the year before.

However, this was slightly below the 72 leavers recorded in 2019-20, the highest number seen since 2009-10, when records began.

Across the country, a record 3,359 firefighters left their jobs last year, a 28 per cent increase on 2,628 in 2020-21.

Meanwhile, the total number of employees leaving the fire industry, which includes support and fire control staff as well as firefighters themselves, also reached a record high last year (4,640).

In Oxfordshire, 12 other staff left in 2021-22, meaning a total of 81 employees left the fire service.

The FBU said pay across the industry must be addresses to prevent further departures, with many “unable to pay for their families’ cost of living.”

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the union, said no firefighters and control staff should have to use foodbanks or struggle to pay the bills.

Mr Wrack added: “It is a totally disgusting state of affairs for us as a society.

“We need to think seriously about increasing pay, or the numbers of people leaving will increase – and the quality of life of tens of thousands of the most important people in society will continue to decrease.”

Early or normal retirement was the most common reason for leaving nationally, accounting for 35 per cent of all departing staff last year.

Meanwhile, 69 per cent more staff resigned to take up alternative employment in 2021-22 than the year before.

Numbers fell for the 15th successive year to 31,000 as of the end of March, meaning there are now 27 per cent fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) across the country than in 2007, when there were 42,400.

Oxfordshire had 416 FTE firefighters last year, down from 428 the year previous.

Mr Wrack said tightening budgets are to blame for the declining numbers on a national scale.

He added: “We cannot continue to have a situation where threadbare fire services are meant to keep our communities safe.

“Firefighters and control staff need to get the proper resources to do their jobs; anything else lets firefighters and control staff down and lets the public down.”


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1

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