A leaked ministry of defence document has exposed a shortage of military personnel to cover the work of Britain's 55,000 firefighters, who are threatening a walkout next month. The document outlines details of the deployment of only 12,500 soldiers to take over the firefighters under Operation Fresco, Whitehall's codename for the contingency plans.
A detailed breakdown of the numbers of military personnel to be deployed in each county reveals just how overstretched the emergency services will be in the event of a series of strikes each lasting up to eight days. Cheshire, which currently has about 50 fire engines manned by 608 firefighters, will be covered by only 168 military personnel operating 14 Army engines - nicknamed green goddesses. East Sussex will have just 96 personnel assigned to eight green goddesses - a fraction of the county's usual cover from 39 fire engines and 659 full and part-time firefighters.
Greater London, which has many thousands of full-time firefighters, will be covered by 1,080 military staff and 90 green goddesses.
A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed the leaked document was genuine. He said:'The MoD would not be seeking to replicate the current firefighting capability, but they will be attempting to minimise as far as possible the danger to human life in the event of industrial action...
'It would be highly irresponsible of the government not to make contingency plans but no government can agree to a pay claim of 40%. In our view, an independent pay review is the best option for all sides'.
The Fire Brigades Union is expected to name a series of strike dates on 18 October when the result of a postal ballot is known. The union has rejected a 4% offer, and is boycotting the pay review'.