Wednesday 21 February 2024
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Nottingham

Fire chief warns support staff cuts are ‘recommended’ to make savings

The Chief Fire Officer for Nottinghamshire has warned further cuts could be on the way if the service does not receive more funding.

Plans which could see Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service reducing its fire crew cover at three stations were revealed last week.

And job cuts to staff working in support services – those who are not firefighters – are also in the pipeline.

Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin said the service is looking at a £6m deficit over the next six years and the first plans, intending to save £2m, will soon go to public consultation.

Mr Parkin, who has only been in the top role at the service since April, said it was “hugely disappointing” to propose cuts.

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He said: “Not only are you trying to find your feet as a senior leader, you are also trying to face the financial problem that’s been brewing for many years.

“It is not the kind of thing you want to be doing as a chief fire officer.”

The first plans would see West Bridgford Fire Station have no crew on duty at all at night, and both London Road and Stockhill stations losing one fire engine each.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is strongly opposed to the plans.

Mark Stilwell, chair of the East Midlands FBU branch, said the report presented to the authority on the cuts was “incomplete, misleading, dangerous and does not show the full impact of cuts”.

•  West Bridgford worst hit by Fire Service planned changes as Union boss comments

• Plans to take night-time emergency fire cover out of West Bridgford goes to consultation – Have your say

Recommendations for a public consultation to start on the plans were passed with nine votes for, eight against and one abstention during a Fire Authority meeting on September 23.

After the meeting, Mr Parkin said the plans were the “least worst” option.

As crews in West Bridgford would come from other areas overnight, this is expected to increase average response times by 43 seconds at a station already significantly above the service’s eight-minute target.

 

But in Ashfield, the fire service plans the return of 24-hour cover at the Kirkby-in-Ashfield station.

Mr Parkin said: “If we don’t deal with the financial settlement that we get either through council precept, government grant or business rates, I will be back in front of the fire authority proposing more cuts.

“Given the state of the nation and everybody struggling, I don’t have a high level of confidence that somebody is going to provide me with an increased budget.

“We are already recommending a reduction in posts in our support services, so jobs are going. We don’t believe that will be compulsory redundancy but I can’t rule that out at this stage.

“I can’t take £2m away from my operational fleet and leave my support services alone.

“The next 12 months we will be looking at cuts for our support services.”

In the past five years, the service has already seen an 11 per cent decrease in its workforce.

Comparably, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service has seen a six per cent increase in its workforce in the past five years.

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service has seen a 12 per cent decrease.

Some councillors raised concerns that the plans will mean response times would increase in certain areas.

Mr Parkin said: “Of course, If there’s a fire in West Bridgford the fire engines would come from all over the city and county as they do now.

“But response times for subsequent appliances will go up, it is inevitable.

“You can never say whether somebody’s life was lost because a fire engine took seconds longer.

“What I would say about fire fatalities in homes is the average is usually we sadly lose six of our residents in the city and county per year to house fires.

“We haven’t seen a massive spike in that because of the reduction in resources.

“The south of the county is one of the lowest risk areas we have, it has higher levels of affluence and investment.”

He added that a workforce review of 158 support staff has also been carried out, looking at if further savings can be made for staff who are not firefighters.

Mr Parkin added: “It would be insulting to the intelligence of the workforce and the public if I said I don’t think there will be job cuts. I do think that at this stage, unless somebody gives me more money

“We’re a highly regarded service which is something I think is going to be eroded in future years in terms of people’s faith and confidence in us.

“That’s something we’ve got to work really hard at to make sure we mitigate that as much as we can.”

The changes will be the subject of a 12-week public consultation from Monday, September 26.

A final decision on the plans is expected in February 2023 and if approved after the public consultation, the changes will go ahead from April 2023.

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