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10 June 2014
A decision to make cuts to the fire and rescue service in Hereford & Worcester has been deferred until September, following a meeting at the local Fire Authority today, where members of the Fire Brigades Union presented a petition signed by 16,200 people, voicing strong local opposition to the cuts.
The Authority decided that it would prefer to research more alternatives before a final decision is made.
Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service needs to save a total of £4 million, including £2 million from frontline services. The proposed cuts could see 140 jobs lost and four stations closed over the next three years.
A report presented at today’s meeting outlined three options:
- Changing one of two full time fire engines each from Worcester and Hereford to on-call, plus removing an on-call appliance from Redditch, Ledbury and Tenbury, and deferring the removal of the engines in Worcester, Hereford and Redditch for three years.
- Changing one of two full-time fire engines each from Worcester and Hereford to on-call, as well as deferring the removal of on-call appliances from Ledbury and Tenbury for two years.
- Changing one of two full-time fire engines each from Worcester and Hereford to on-call, removing an on-call appliance from Redditch, Ledbury and Tenbury, but delaying the changes for two years.
Councillor Jim Kenyon of Herefordshire County Council told local reporters: “This is the biggest risk to people’s lives in the region since WWII.”
Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates, who has lobbied hard for more central government funding expressed disappointment, both personally and professionally, that cuts were being planned, but felt that the organisation had no choice given the amount of money that needs to be saved.
"This is not what we want to do but what we have to do," he said.
Steve Gould of the Fire Brigades Union attended the meeting and welcomed the decision, saying he and his colleagues would continue to campaign against the cuts.
The Fire Brigades Union is fiercely opposed to the nationwide cuts and says: “Firefighters wages make up over three-quarters of fire and rescue service budgets, so cuts to fire service funding invariably mean cuts to firefighters jobs. But it is only professional firefighters who can put out fires, deal with other emergencies and rescue people safely. Fewer firefighters puts the public at greater risk of injury and death.”
A petition on the FBU website urges visitors, whether professionals in the fire services or members of the public, to support the fire and rescue services and oppose the cuts.