Reaction to Ilfracombe fire cuts proposals


- Credit: Archant

Fire fighters have said the proposed cuts to Ilfracombe’s hours could cost lives, but the fire service says an on call system would be ‘more efficient’.

DIFFICULT choices are needed to balance the books after the government reduced its fire service grant by £5.5million, says the chief fire officer.

Lee Howell has said maintaining the status quo ‘is simply not an option’, as the removal of Ilfracombe’s day time crew is among 11 cost cutting measures.

But Ilfracombe fire fighter Trevor French said the station’s successful record was being used against it: “It is because of the community safety work they do at the station during the day that we have seen calls go down since 2007.

“Now the service is using that against us by saying because we attended only 153 shouts last year we should be gone. It has made Ilfracombe safer, but when we can only do intervention work and not prevention, that will be a worse service for the town.

“At the moment, if there is a fire we are there ready to go.

“The council tax to pay for your fire brigade is about £1.50 a month – that’s the equivalent of a loaf of bread. As fire fighters we are going to be out there asking if the public would be willing to pay a bit more to keep their fire service.”

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Under new legislation, councils that want to increase their council tax by more than two per cent must hold a referendum.

Area Commander Steve Widnell said the proposal to change crewing arrangements at Ilfracombe was one of 11 other proposals to meet the funding shortfall.

“We have carried out comprehensive research to ensure the resources we have in an area match both the risk and the demand,” he said.

“Our research shows that 17 of our existing on call fire stations currently attend more incidents than Ilfracombe, at a fraction of the cost. Ilfracombe attends an average of 46 a year during the day, and during the evening and night-time, when more incidents occur, the station is already crewed by on call fire fighters only.

“Introducing an on call crewing system during the day would be a more efficient method of running the station and fire fighters released from the whole time crews would be available for increased community safety activities, focusing on prevention, which we know will further improve public safety.

“None of the whole time fire fighters at the station would be made redundant and we would offer them other roles within the service.”

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