THE number of full-time firefighters in Worcester could be halved to save almost £5 million over the next three years.
A proposal to reduce the city’s number of ‘wholetime crewed’ engines from two to one would result in up to 25 city-based firefighters losing their jobs, says the Fire Brigades Union.
Worcester – the busiest fire station in the two counties – currently has two ‘wholetime’ and one ‘on-call’ fire engines. Under the plan it would lose one of the ‘wholetime’ engines. The on-call crew live or work locally and are able to travel to the fire station within five minutes.
The proposal is one of three being considered by Herefordshire and Worcestershire Fire and Rescue Service to save £4.7 million over the next three years. Other suggestions include closing Bewdley and Broadway stations.
The brigade says a fall in the number of call-outs over recent years means it can safely cut the number of firefighters and engines it has across the two counties.
But the plans have already prompted concern from the Fire Brigades Union, which says it fears response times will be affected, and Worcester’s MP Robin Walker.
The three proposals being considered are:
- Remove one fire engine from each of Hereford, Worcester and Redditch fire stations.
- Remove one of the two oncall fire engines from each of Bromyard, Ledbury and Tenbury Wells.
- Close Bewdley and Broadway stations and either close Kingsland and Whitchurch stations in Herefordshire or reduce cover in Leominster and Ross-on-Wye.
The fire service says its draft community risk management plan has taken into account a 20 per cent fall in the number of incidents it has attended since 2002, including a 30 per cent fall in fires.
“Fire engines are called out on far fewer occasions than they were 10 years ago. We can reduce the numbers of engines and firefighters and still maintain an effective response.”
It says in Worcester, for instance, there would be an increase in the number of calls attended by on-call firefighters, plus a reduction of 22 in the number of wholetime firefighter posts.
The union’s Herefordshire and Worcestershire brigade secretary Steve Gould said: “It will mean the public is less safe. We’re a brigade which is smaller than most.
The plans mean it would take us longer to respond to calls. This idea would put up to 25 jobs at risk. And these are frontline jobs we’re talking about.”
Robin Walker said he too was “very concerned”.
“I want to know we’ll have enough capacity to deal with huge emergencies when they crop up,” he said.
“It seems Worcester and Hereford are bearing the burden of a large part of this.”
Chief fire officer Mark Yates said: “Over the past three years we have made significant savings from our management structures, procurement and back-office functions. We anticipate further savings of approximately £2 million from non-frontline services. But we now have to look at our front line.”
A 12-week public consultation is likely to start next month.