A “GOVERNMENT that doesn’t care” will put Worcester lives on the line if full-time first response fire and rescue cover across the city comes down to a single fire engine.
The claim came from Councillor Richard Udall as Hereford & Worcester Fire Authority met to back unprecedented service cuts - now going out to a 12 week public consultation.
In Worcester the cuts - intended to help the service nearly £5m over three years - could mean losing one of the city station’s two full-time fire engine crews, leaving only a single full-time crew as a first instance response.
Support for the remaining single crew would come from a retained crew who are supposed to reach the station within five minutes, or the nearest crew available to the incident area.
Beyond that, back-up would come from Droitwich or Malvern with other crews scrambled from Upton-upon-Severn, Bromsgrove, and Ledbury – if available.
The cut would cost 22 full-time Worcester firefighters their jobs and save the service £752,450. There would be no reduction of the station’s specialist capabilities like the aerial ladder platform and water rescue vehicle.
Other county fire stations possibly affected include: * Bewdley - station proposed for closure saving up to £111,800 and losing 13 on-call firefighters.
* Broadway - station proposed for closure saving up to £102,500 and losing 13 on-call firefighters.
* Evesham - one on call engine replacing the one day-crewed engine saving £97,000 and losing 18 on-call firefighters.
* Kidderminster - Removing one on-call fire engine leaving a single whole time crew saving £111,100 and losing 15 on-call firefighters.
* Redditch - Removing an on-call engine to leave a whole time engine and an on-call engine saving £55,300 and six on-call firefighter posts.
Coun Udall told the authority that the plan was the most worrying paper he had seen in 18 years as a member.
“It is the first time I’ve seen a paper that is cuts lead not service lead. These are damaging, destructive and risky cuts designed in Downing Street by people who don’t have to live with the consequences,” said Coun Udall.
“We need to act to prevent the impact of these cuts in any way we can against a government that doesn’t care,” he said.
An amendment put by Coun Udall committing the authority to pressuring the county’s MPs to take the funding fight to the Treasury fell at a vote.
The authority was told that chairman Councillor Derek Prodger and Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates were already in such talks with the MPs.
Deputy Chief Officer Richard Lawrence told the authority that the service was not shying away from the impact of the cuts. But the cuts proposed, he said, had the least impact according to analysis.
Within the Worcester station area there are an average 1,423 incidents a year including 136 fires in buildings - 81 of which will be fires in the home - and 81 road traffic collisions (RTCs).
Just over half of these incidents occur between 8am-6pm with crews currently reaching the majority of fires within 10 minutes and the majority of collisions within 15 minutes. Support from the station will go out to 108 building fires a year and around 45 RTCs.
The service concedes that scrambling the on-call engine as proposed would see response times “slightly delayed” against a rise in the number of calls it attended.