Henley Lib Dem candidate Stephen Kearney received a very enthusiastic reception last night from firefighters based in Watlington. Stephen had been invited having bumped into one of the station chiefs at the recent Thame festival.
The firefighters at Watlington (as across much of Oxfordshire) are retained - ie part-time. They have day jobs and agreements with their employers that if they are paged to go to a fire they can drop everything to respond. The biggest problem is that they have to live very close to the fire station in order to respond quickly. Firefighters are not paid huge salaries and house prices in Watlington are at least seven times the average salary. Many therefore find it hugely difficult to afford a property.
At least until recently, retained firefighters were not eligible to participate in housing schemes for key workers.
Stephen was happy to pledge his support for the campaign for a better deal for firefighters to help them to stay in the job. At least one of those he spoke to last night told him that they would be having to leave the area within the next year as they are unable to afford to live and work here.