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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Southwell fire station crew availability lowest in Notts

“In Southwell, the demographic around it is not the same at all."

PUBLISHED:

Southwell fire station is out of action more than half of the time due to lack a of staff – and the demographic of the town is one of the factors being blamed.

Unlike some of the larger fire stations, Southwell is run by ‘retained’ fire crews, rather than full time staff.

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Retained fire crews still receive considerable training, but often have other jobs and are only called out in emergencies.

But the availability of the fire crew in Southwell is the lowest in the county.

At several other retained stations, crews are available more than 90 percent of the time, such as East Leake (99.2 percent) Hucknall (95.4 percent) and Harworth (95.2 percent).

But on-call availability at Southwell in the last quarter of 2018 was just 45.6 percent. In the previous quarter it was even lower, at 40.9.

When the Southwell fire engine is unavailable, another appliance will be sent from elsewhere in Nottinghamshire, but this can cause delays.

A senior figure at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service said there is positive news across the county, with on-call availability increasing at most stations last quarter compared to the year before.

Figures discussed by deputy chief fire officer Craig Parkin show availability increased at 12 of the 16 on-call stations, while nine of 16 had availability of 90 percent or more.

But asked whether he had concerns about the comparatively low availability at Southwell, Mr Parkin said: “We do. With Southwell it seems to be a very different beast.

“We really, really struggle to attract the communities of Southwell in terms of on-call firefighting, and assumptions are made by the demographic, because it’s a far more affluent area than a lot of our other on-call stations, there’s no attraction in terms of financial reward or otherwise.

“In a lot of our other areas, people do it because there’s a financial reward.

“So I’m not trying to stereotype but to try to find comparison, in somewhere like Worksop where the average salary might be much lower, below £20,000, when you start looking at the five or six thousand pounds additional salary you can kind of see that.

“In Southwell, the demographic around it is not the same at all.

“We are reliant on people in a community having a community spirit to want to support public services.

“When I look at East Leake, what is it they’ve got, what they’re doing at 99 percent (availability) and when I look at the area, it’s the community and the people, and that’s the difference.

“There’s real positives about doing it (being a retained firefighter) and we try to apply the same generic things for each station, but there’s something about Southwell that’s a hard nut to crack.”

Councillor Francis Purdue-Horan, who represents Bingham East for the Conservatives at Nottinghamshire County Council, was on the fire service panel which looked at on-call availability figures last week (Friday, March 22).

He said: “If we were to announce that Southwell fire station was to close, I’m absolutely confident that the community in Southwell would rise up and all that.

“We do need to get this message out that it’s an extremely important asset to their community, and the wider villages, and if we can somehow urge that community spirit.

“Because I’ve seen it in action with other things, like the flood forum, there is a tight-knit community and we can draw out people who can help the community.”

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