September 25th, 2016

Redditch fire cover cuts plan abandoned

Updated: 9:48 am, May 07, 2015

PLANS to slash fire cover in Redditch have been scrapped by councillors.

Members of Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority agreed to keep a second retained duty fire engine at the borough’s station at a meeting on Wednesday (October 1) as part of what is known as Option 2.

It follows previous proposals to remove the engine, leaving the borough with just one full-time and one part-time crew.

Councillors also backed plans to use £800,000 from the authority’s savings to keep five whole-time firefighters on the first engines sent out from stations across the county as many times as possible, except in Hereford and Worcester.

The changes, which aim to protect the counties’ services for at least two years, will also see a standard minimum of four firefighters per engine despite the Fire Brigades Union recommending five crew members.

The move comes as Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service need to cut £4million from its budget over the next three years – including £1.7million from the frontline.

A handful of councillors called for the introduction of the Day Crewing Plus System, where firefighters would be rostered for 24 hours but classified as ‘on duty’ for 12 hours during the day.

This would be followed by 12 hour nights where they would be on ‘standby’ and expected to sleep in purpose-built accommodation close to or at the station.

But Chief Fire Officer, Mark Yates, said it would cost the service between £120,000 and £150,000, although he agreed to look at introducing the scheme in the future if funds were available.

“Resources have an equation and the other side of that equation is how do we pay for the service? Nothing comes for free,” he said.

“I want as many firefighters as possible, as many fire engines as possible and as many fire stations as possible.

“But I have to live with the reality – how you pay for it is you have to ride four.”

He added Option 2 and the use of reserves gave the authority the ‘best solution’ for a difficult situation.

Coun Graham Vickery, who represents Redditch North, asked for Option 2 to include Mr Yates working with the unions, operational staff and elected members to look at feasibly introducing the Day Crewing Plus System in six to 12 months time, which was agreed by councillors.

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