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03 October 2014
Tenbury Wells and Ledbury fire stations will lose one engine each as part of planned cuts in the region –38 full time firefighters are being lost across the brigade's fleet.
At a Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority (HWFR) meeting earlier this week Members agreed that:
- No fire engines will be removed from Hereford or Worcester fire stations.
- The second permanently crewed fire engines at Hereford and Worcester fire stations be changed to the Day Duty system, which is 12 hours permanently crewed and 12 hours on-call duty crewed in each 24 hours.
- The second on-call fire engines at Ledbury and Tenbury fire stations be removed from the Service’s fleet of fire engines.
HWFR told local reporters that the cuts are significantly smaller than originally planned, but some firefighters are concerned that the engine loss will have a knock on effect and stretch fire service resources in the area.
The fire authority needs to address an overall budget shortfall of over £6 million in a five year period. While 73% of savings are planned to be made from cuts in back office roles, management roles and service improvements, £1.7 million still needs to be found, says the Authority.
However, original proposals were to cut much more, with plans to scrap 10 engines across the region, with the loss of 44 jobs.
The only choice
Derek Prodger, Chairman of HWFR said: "The authority has agreed a way of making the savings mainly through changes to crewing systems and crewing levels and by removing two fire engines instead of the ten that were originally proposed.
"Of course, we would prefer not to have to make savings from the frontline, and we recognise the concerns of the wider community, but we must deal with the budget shortfall we are facing. We have no other choice."
“Closing a fire station will always be a last resort for this Authority,” added Cllr Prodger. “At this moment in time we can meet most of our budget shortfalls by changes to back office and management structures as well as several other savings away from the frontline, indeed we have made over £4m savings in this manner already. However, there is only so much back office that can be taken without having an adverse impact on the Service itself. This means that some frontline savings are necessary, and the revised proposals do this with as little impact as possible.”
The best option
Chief fire officer Mark Yates said: "While it is very hard to make changes that affect our frontline response, I do believe that we will still be able to provide an excellent service for our communities.
“Although I would not wish to lose any of our frontline fire engines from the fleet, the recommendations approved represent the best option in the present circumstances.”
Steven Gould, brigade secretary for Hereford and Worcester FBU, said he was disappointed with the cuts but that Tenbury would continue to have a standing crew of four to five people.
"However, to lose the fire engine at Tenbury, or to lose any engine across the two counties has a knock on effect," he said. “If Tenbury's engine is out on an incident and then another one comes in, who is going to cover that?
"Our service has £1.8 million in a reserve pot and £3.1 million in a budget reduction fund, so if it's poverty their claiming, that's not a true fact - there is money there.