04 July 2014

Warwickshire firefighters have told the Fire Brigades Union that cuts to their Fire and Rescue Service (WFRS) will put lives at risk.

Government cutbacks mean that the service faces having to make between £2.3 and 3.5 million (12% and 18%) in savings before 2018, which could lead to the loss of almost three out of ten frontline posts.

Fire Brigades Union secretary for Warwickshire, Marcus Giles, said: “The lives of firefighters and the public will be at greater risk as a result of these cuts.

“Job losses mean firefighters will be stretched to new levels, and further station closures will be inevitable.”

Firefighters say that the station closures and redundancies undertaken as a result of WFRS’s 2010 ‘improvement plan’ mean that there is no space for further cuts without seriously jeopardising safety.

As well as front line duties, the Fire Brigades Union argues that the cuts will also threaten community safety activities, fire safety promotion and building inspections.

Reacting to rumours of a merger between WFRS and Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, Giles added:

“A merger will result in even more job losses and station closures for Warwickshire.

“Residents do not pay their council tax to receive a reduced service from the fire service.

“Warwickshire would lose control of its fire and rescue services and decisions about its operations would be handed to a fire authority covering three counties.”

The FBU is encouraging members of the public to have their say on the cuts by responding to the public consultation, which runs between 3 and 31 October and is available at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/shapingthefuture.

Andy Hickmott, Warwickshire's chief fire officer, told the BBC that crew numbers were less relevant than other safety issues. "I don't believe firefighter safety stands or falls on whether or not a fire engine has a crew of four or a crew of five.

"How well equipped firefighters are, how well trained they are, how well supervised they are by their officers all are much more relevant issues."

A consultation, started in May, suggested the force could cut 30 firefighters, five control room staff and one fire engine to reduce its budget.

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

Original sources