Plans to reduce Ilfracombe fire cover to on call only prompts a wave of reaction from local people and FBU leaders.
REACTION has been pouring in after the news Ilfracombe is to see its fire cover reduced to retained only.
Members of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority voted on Wednesday to approve 11 proposals across the two counties in a bid to plug a £5.5million shortfall.
The whole time crew on duty at the station from 9am-6pm on week days will be relocated to other parts of the service and although it would still maintain two fire engines, these would be manned by on call fire fighters only.
After a lengthy consultation period and local campaigning against the cuts, the proposals were utterly rejected at a public meeting in April hosted by Ilfracombe Town Council, with fears longer response times could cost lives.
“It will result in full-time cover being down-graded at many stations across Devon and Somerset with the loss of around 149 front-line posts,” said Bob Walker, Fire Brigades Union brigade chairman.
“We had assurances that views expressed during the consultation would be listened to but that didn’t happen in any meaningful way.
“The bottom line is, if fire appliances take longer to get to incidents, then those incidents become more dangerous.”
Ilfracombe will see one of its two medium pump appliances replaced with one of the new light rescue pumps, being rolled out as part of the cost cutting package.
The fire service says all 11 regional proposals, including reducing support staff by around 40, as well as some senior posts, are aimed at providing ‘an affordable and effective service’ without closing stations, removing engines or compulsory redundancies.
Mike Creek of Ilfracombe Trades Council attended Wednesday’s meeting and said it was ‘a sad day’ for the town:
“Of concern was the statement of the senior fire officer saying that the cuts do not stop here. He has to save considerable finance during the next few years and talked of the likelihood of shutting down fire stations - obviously small retained staff village stations. As far as we in North Devon are concerned, Woolacombe and Combe Martin could be viewed.”
Bob Walker praised new Ilfracombe County Councillor and fire authority member Mike Edmunds for his stand in voting against all the cuts and speaking strongly in favour of keeping the cover for Ilfracombe.
He said now the FBU would now be meeting with the fire service to try and negotiate a sensible way forward.
This was echoed by Ilfracombe Mayor, Councillor Lynda Courtnadge, who said they now had to work with the fire service to get the best possible outcome for the people of Ilfracombe.
“We have the situation, now we have to deal with it,” she said.
“Area commander Steve Widnell addressed the council last week and reassured people the service would not simply be ‘flicked off’, it would be phased out and the priority was to secure good cover for the town.
“With the fire service being one of the partners in One Ilfracombe, we are in a stronger negotiating position to get the best possible deal.”