Monday 5 December 2022
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Nottingham

West Bridgford emergency fire cover cuts ‘won’t save money’ as councillors and MP oppose proposals

Rushcliffe MP and councillors condemn plans to reduce emergency fire cover overnight.

There were claims that proposed fire cuts in Nottinghamshire are a “tragedy waiting to happen” at a public meeting discussing the plans.

A public consultation is ongoing on the proposals, which could see Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service reducing its fire crew cover at three stations in order to save £2m.

The major changes, proposed by Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service to reduce a budget deficit, 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.

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

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

Rushcliffe Labour held a public meeting in West Bridgford on November 18 where a panel of speakers told of their fears if the cuts go ahead.

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But the Home Office said that the fire service in Nottinghamshire has had an increase of 5.2 per cent in funding compared with 2021/22.

They added that the fire service held £10.7m in reserves as of March 2021, which is an increase of £0.9m compared with the previous year.

Mark Stilwell, Regional chair of the Fire Brigades Union and a firefighter for over 20 years in Nottinghamshire, said: “It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.

“We’re going to get a massive incident eventually and we’ll be looking at what we should’ve done better.

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“Since I joined this job, all I’ve seen is austerity and cuts and it does sadden me.

“In Nottinghamshire, we’ve lost six appliances in a decade and two appliances where we don’t have any cover at night.

“It’s scandalous the way we’re going at the minute. The implications of these proposed cuts are massive.

“You deserve more, and we deserve more as firefighters. Our health and safety is being risked here.

“The risk to us is massive, the longer it takes to get to a fire, the worse the risk is.

“You’re paying your taxes and you deserve a better fire service.

“We have got reserves but we need more funding and the only way we’re going to get that is from central government.”

Cllr Penny Gowland for West Bridgford North (Lab) said she was concerned about the cuts impacting response times.

 

She said: “We are very lucky to be a low-risk community but accidents can happen to all of us at any time.

“This isn’t cutting the fat off, this is a cut to the marrow.”

West Bridgford County Councillor Jonathan Wheeler is the leader of the Opposition on the Fire Authority and says ‘there is a deliberate attempt to mislead people underway by the Labour Party. ‘

Speaking to West Bridgford Wire he said:

“The closure of West Bridgford Fire Station at night will not save any money overall, as the plan is to use that ‘saving’ to upgrade Ashfield Fire Station to full time night cover from on call.

“We are not even being offered oncall at night, and the proposal to take another appliance out of London Road gives us a double hit.

“The Home Office have set out that the money is there it just needs to be spent wisely.

“The recent tragedy in Clifton shows that we need cover here in the south of the County, and the local Labour party should be standing up to their colleagues in the north of the County rather than misleading local residents.”

Ruth Edwards MP who represents the borough in Parliament told The Wire:

‘I am extremely concerned to see the Labour-run Fire Authority planning to move night time fire cover out of Rushcliffe and will join Conservative councillors in opposing these plans.

‘I call on all of Rushcliffe’s Labour councillors to lobby their colleagues on the Fire Authority to do the same.

‘As the leadership of Nottinghamshire Fire Service has confirmed to me, moving the night shift from West Bridgford will not save money and is not a financial decision.

‘We need to work together as Rushcliffe’s elected representatives to stop these proposals in their tracks.’

Cheryl Pidgeon, the regional organiser for Unite the Union, added that Nottinghamshire is the 7th worst-affected fire service in England in terms of cuts.

She said during the meeting: “Fire can spread quickly, it can kill quickly, it can destroy families and communities quickly.

“There’s been no decision on this as yet so let’s pull together and get angry about this.

“A life is priceless, we should not have to lose one life in our community.”

Jacob Collier, the Unison workplace steward for the service, represents support staff including engineers, ICT technicians, and the education and fire investigation teams.

He said: “Our staff are incredibly worried about what is going to happen and morale is very low.

“We are also concerned about what’s going to happen to operational colleagues.

“We joined the fire service to make sure our communities are safe, and now we are at the point where if these cuts go through, it will potentially will lead to loss of life.”

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.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Candida Brudenell, said the service has “faced over a decade of severe, continued and increasing financial pressures”.

She said: “We don’t want to be in this position, but because of our legal requirement to set a balanced budget, we have to propose changes.

“The suggested changes have been independently assessed by a sector-leading specialist, following a comprehensive risk analysis across the city and county.

“The location of a fire station, its resources, and staffing models are all informed by a significant amount of data analysis, including community risk profiling and historical incident demand review.

“The proposal is one that enables us to save the money required, with the least impact on Service-wide performance. If Fire Authority Members vote to approve the changes, we will still have 28 fire engines deployed across the county, which meets our scenario plans of large-scale incidents.

“Should we require it, we also have arrangements with each of our neighbouring fire services who can provide support at large incidents. This is a well-practised occurrence.

“We strongly encourage communities to have their say on our proposal. Please visit www.notts-fire.gov.uk to give your views before 23 December 2022.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Decisions on how their resources are best deployed are a matter for each fire and rescue authority. They determine appropriate targets for local response times based on its analysis of risk and local circumstances.

“Nottinghamshire Fire has a core spending power of £45.8m this year, an increase of 5.2% compared with 2021/22, which demonstrates our commitment to ensuring fire services have the resources they need to keep people safe.”

•  Petition launched to save night-time fire cover at West Bridgford Fire Station

•  Loss of night-time emergency cover at West Bridgford Fire Station are operational and won’t deliver savings Rushcliffe MP is told

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

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