FIREFIGHTERS in Swindon are set to return to the picket lines today in further strike action against the Government’s pension proposals.

The industrial action is set to take place from 10am until 5pm and a number of fire stations will be affected.

Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has said that while cover will be provided by retained crews, the public should be aware and not take extra risks.

The dispute has been going on for several months, stretching back into last year. Members of the Fire Brigades’ Union have staged several walk-outs in that time, with the longest being last week when crews were on strike for 24 hours.

They are angry at proposals to increase the contributions firefighters make to their pensions, which the union says could cost up to £4,000 a year.

The FBU also objects to raising the retirement age to 60, making tough physical tests harder to pass. On top of that they object to proposals which could see firefighters who do not pass the tests sacked and unable to claim their pension until they reach the national retirement age of 67.

Brent Thorley, pictured, the South West FBU secretary, said: “What we are hoping now is the Government gets the message that we are standing strong over this and not backing down.

“There are a number of options we have put to the Government to consider, but they have not come back to us with answers, which is a concern.”

The fire service has issued a number of safety tips to people to ensure they stay safe, but have stressed 999 calls will be answered throughout the day.

Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones said: “Yet again we are faced with planning for a strike that is down to a national dispute between the FBU and the Government.

“As on previous occasions, we will be operating with reduced resources and this will have an effect on the service we can provide. However, I am confident that our contingency plans will be sufficient to cope.

“As ever, we would remind people that, during the strike period, we will still respond to 999 calls but it may take us a little longer than usual to arrive and, with larger premises, we may send a smaller attendance than usual in the first instance.”

Among the advice being given out is that people should make sure fire alarms are working and have been tested. On top of that, plugs should be switched off if people are leaving the house.