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MPs call for re-think on fire service cuts
MPs across Worcestershire have spoken of their fears over fire service cuts - and have urged the politician in charge of the plan to “think again”.
All six Conservative MPs in the county have sent a letter to Councillor Derek Prodger, chairman of the region’s fire authority, pleading for radical changes.
The parliamentarians have heaped the pressure on Coun Prodger by saying the cuts “threaten to weaken the fire service’s ability” to deal with major incidents.
The MPs also say they are desperately worried about how firefighters will be able to respond to disasters as big as the 2007 floods, or last week’s blaze at Robert Wiseman Dairies in Droitwich, if the cuts are accepted.
They have even raised the idea of sharing back office functions with fire services in Shropshire and Warwickshire, rather than cut the front line.
As your Worcester News revealed earlier this month, 144 jobs are at risk over proposals to cut £4.7m from spending over the next three years.
It includes closing stations in Bewdley, Broadway, Kingsland and Whitchurch and reducing the number of fire engines on duty from 43 to 33, including an appliance in Worcester.
The MPs have also written to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and fire minister Brandon Lewis asking for an improved grant settlement.
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin said: “We’re concerned by the general impact of these changes on front line services and the ability to handle major incidents such as the recent major fire in Droitwich or the heavy flooding the county experienced in 2007.
“The proposed new service levels are not acceptable to us and we have asked the fire authority to have a re-think and look at other ways of making savings before considering this strategy.”
Robin Walker, who represents Worcester, said: “I want the fire authority to take another look at this plan and do more to take costs out of administration and back office rather than out of the front line.
“I believe there is more to be done in working with neighbouring authorities such as Warwickshire and Shropshire to share back office resources and reduce costs that way.
“I find it concerning that the plans currently on offer should suggest we need fewer fire engines than were actually deployed during the 2007 floods.”
The letter has also been signed by Peter Luff, who represents Mid-Worcestershire, Mark Garnier, MP for Wyre Forest, Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid and Redditch’s Karen Lumley.
A consultation on how to make the savings runs until February 19, and Coun Prodger says he will take the feedback on board.
“We've already taken £2.5m out of the back office functions so it's difficult," he said.
"But I am delighted they are agreeing with me about the need for a higher funding settlement (from the Government).
"I will do my very best to get a better deal from the Government."
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