Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Fire service cutbacks put lives at risk

Today's Leader makes it clear the risk of further cuts in the fire service caused by the Con-Dem coalition's cuts agenda.
There's more to this story still to come out. Fire Authority members need to be very careful before they vote for frontline service cuts next month when there are serious questions to be asked of the Fire Authority's management decisions.

Cutbacks at Wrexham fire station could put lives at risk

Published date: 26 September 2011 |
Published by: Phil Robinson

LIVES could be put at risk if proposals to cut down on cover at Wrexham Fire Station get the go-ahead.

That was the grim warning after it was revealed North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority will trim £2.4 million from its budget over the next two years.

At its meeting last week, the authority’s executive panel was presented with five options for saving the money, which saw members back a plan to roster crews in a way that needs fewer firefighters.

Although this ensures stations are not closed or the number of appliances cut, it will lead to between 22 and 36 job cuts and save between £850,000 and £1 million.

But further options considered by the panel could have drastic consequences for the Wrexham station.

One would see the axing of one of the two full-time fire engines based at Wrexham along with 24 crew jobs and another would mean the removal of the third back-up engine manned on a part-time basis.

Plaid Cymru’s leader on Wrexham Council, Cllr Marc Jones, warns that if fire chiefs do not hit their £2.4 million cuts target simply by altering rostering arrangements they will turn their attention to the other options, which could endanger lives in Wrexham.

He said: “The authority went for the rostering option but that won’t save them the amount of money they are looking for.

“This is the thin end of the wedge and puts the Wrexham station in the firing line.

“Wrexham has a growing population and more houses being built mean more people.

“There is also a large industrial estate to consider.

“The fire authority has got to come clean on what its plans are for Wrexham because if cuts are made at the station lives could be put at risk.

“The whole community here will be very concerned about any cutbacks.”

A report on the options considered by the executive panel says the axing of the second fire engine at Wrexham, which covers the town centre, Gwersyllt, Coedpoeth, Rossett and Farndon, and reducing 24 full-time posts, along with the second appliance at other stations, would save £874,000.

Cutting the third appliance at Wrexham, which is crewed by part-time firefighters, and elsewhere would save £664,000 but, says the report, would lead to delays in attendance times.

There is also a warning in the report that these cuts could spark industrial action by union members.

A spokeswoman for the fire authority said: “The executive panel voted unanimously to recommend to the authority an option which involved rostering firefighters for duty in a different way to the current system.

“This has the benefit of maintaining all the current stations and appliances within North Wales.

“However, the decision has not been made by the full authority and this will not happen until the meeting on October 17.

“The authority may instead choose one of the five options listed which could be either the removal of the second or third appliance at Wrexham.

“We await the decision of the authority in discharging its duty to deliver a balanced budget for 2012 - 2013.”

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