UPDATED: Ilfracombe facing fire service cuts

13:11 10 January 2013

Ilfracombe facing fire service cuts.

Ilfracombe facing fire service cuts.

Archant

Station could be reduced to on call only after cost cutting proposals announced today (Thursday).

ILFRACOMBE is once again facing cuts to its fire service following proposals to reduce the station from a full daytime crew to on call only.

At a meeting in Exeter this morning (Thursday) chief fire officer Lee Howell revealed Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service needed to make savings of £5.5 million over the next two years after seeing its government grant cut.

Among a raft of measures, it is proposed to do away with the full time manning of the Ilfracombe station and reduce it to a retained one, as with the rest of North Devon except Barnstaple.

Mr Howell said: “The grant reductions for our service were harsher than we would have liked.

“This means that we will need to manage our service with approximately £5.5m less each year and won’t be able to operate in the way in which we currently do.

“However, at this stage, we do not plan on closing fire stations, removing fire engines or making staff compulsorily redundant.”

But opponents have already claimed the plans would put lives at risk.

Ilfracombe successfully fought off similar plans in 2008 following a massive community campaign and a huge groundswell of anger against the cost cutting measures.

“Lee Howell should tell the coalition government that this scale of cuts is unacceptable, risks destroying the fabric of this important service, and ultimately puts more lives at risk,” said Trevor French, Devon and Somerset Fire Brigade Union secretary.

Local FBU chairman Bob Walker said if the proposed cuts go through, there would be fewer fire fighters, fire stations and fire engines.

“After the recent floods and fires dealt with so professionally, the cuts would be a real kick in the teeth for both the public and the service. The FBU is asking people in our communities to stand up against damaging proposals for the fire and rescue service before it is too late.”

The service’s Government grant has been reduced by 10.3 per cent in 2013 and a further 7.3 per cent in 2014, which means it will lose £3.4m in the next financial year and a further £2.1m the following year.

Mr Howell said the changes being proposed aim to strike the balance between making savings and maintaining public safety.

“These are difficult times and difficult choices are needed. The status quo is simply not an option given the need to significantly reduce the budget.”

Other proposals drawn up include increasing prevention work in the community; introducing more light rescue pumps; reducing staff numbers through natural turnover; and changing the status of some fire engines from wholetime to retained crewing.

See below for a complete list of proposed changes.

After a week of in-house consultation, on January 18, the fire authority and fire service senior managers will put forward the proposals for public consultation.

**********************************

The proposed changes are:

Proposal 1: Extend the roll out of light rescue pumps which was consulted on, and agreed, last year. These vehicles reduce cost and improve performance.

Proposal 2: Implement the changes in how we will respond to automatic fire alarms (98 per cent of which are false alarms) so that we only respond to high risk buildings automatically. This was consulted on and received public support last year. We now plan to further implement this change.

Proposal 3: Mobilise one co-responder directly from home/work rather than mobilise a crew and fire engine from a station. This will improve attendance times, save more lives and reduce costs.

Proposal 4: Reduce the number of middle/senior managers. As a result of our business changes, we will be able to reduce officer numbers without compromising performance.

Proposal 5: Invest more time and money in additional prevention activity in 2013. Our analysis shows that for every £145,000 spent on targeted prevention activity, we significantly reduce the likelihood of a fire death. This will directly support our targeted approach and make people safer.

Proposal 6: Change the crewing of three fire engines in Plymouth to ‘on call’ rather than whole time:

• Plympton and Plymstock fire engines to become ‘on call’

• Camelshead keeps one fire engine crewed by wholetime firefighters but one pump is moved to Crownhill.

• Crownhill receives the fire engine moved from Camelshead and will have two fire engines, one crewed by wholetime and one crewed by on call firefighters

There will still be seven front line fire engines in Plymouth. Response times are largely unaffected and may be further improved by the introduction of additional light rescue pumps.

Proposal 7: Crew the aerial appliance at Crownhill with ‘on call’ staff. No other aerial ladder platform is permanently crewed so this harmonises Plymouth with the arrangements elsewhere within the Service.

Proposal 8: Cancel the pilot scheme at Yeovil fire station where an additional four firefighters are provided for non-operational activity (this standardises crewing so that Yeovil is crewed the same as other similar fire stations).

Proposal 9: Change the crewing arrangements of the second fire appliances at Taunton from wholetime to ‘on call’. Many firefighters already operate as ‘on call’ firefighters on these stations. The same number of fire engines will remain available and will be crewed as and when needed and during busy times.

Proposal 10: Change the crewing arrangements of the second fire appliances at Torquay from wholetime to ‘on call’. Many firefighters already operate as ‘on call’ firefighters on these stations. The same number of fire engines will remain available and will be crewed as and when needed and during busy times.

Proposal 11: Change the crewing arrangements of the fire engine at Ilfracombe from day crewed (wholetime, day-time only) to ‘on call’.

In addition, the Service will: Reduce support staff by at least 5 per cent by not renewing some fixed term contracts; save more than £1m through greater efficiencies in our back office support functions, improving procurement and how we manage our spending.

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