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Worcestershire firefighters' union chief warns of deaths amid service cuts
LIVES will be lost if nearly £5 million of fire service cuts are forced through, a firefighter has warned.
Steven Gould, secretary of the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) for Hereford and Worcester, said he is “deeply concerned” the cuts would leave the fire service ill-equipped to save lives and tackle major emergencies.
His comments come after chief fire officer Mark Yates admitted the £4.7 million cuts over the next three years would mean crews turning up late at 14 extra emergencies in Worcester every year.
While Mr Yates called any reduction ‘concerning’, he said he did not believe there would be an overly detrimental impact.
But Mr Gould, who is based in Evesham, said he believes the effect will be massively detrimental.
“We don’t believe a true view of how detrimental these cuts are has been given,” he warned.
“We believe that people will die in Herefordshire and Worcestershire who would not have done in the past be-cause of these cuts on such a massive scale.
“We are deeply concerned about it and we are lobbying as hard as we can to do something about it.
“We believe there are alternatives.
“We believe our management structure is overly heavy at the top and middle levels and that is not being looked at as closely as it should be.”
Proposals under consideration include reducing the number of fire engines on duty from 43 to 33.
But Mr Gould said 35 fire engines were called into action to tackle the devastating summer floods in 2007 and does not believe those levels are suitable for tackling an emergency like that, or the massive blaze earlier this year at Lawrence Re-cycling, in Kidderminster.
“Imagining that we will be able to rely on support from neighbouring authorities is a fallacy because they are under the same pressure as ourselves,” he said.
National government fire standards were scrapped in 2003, with each county asked to create its own.
Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service’s standards include the first fire engine getting to a call within 10 minutes 75 per cent of the time, and a second one arriving within the next five minutes.
Mr Yates has said the cuts, which include removing one full-time appliance in Worcester, would result in 14 calls – nine building blazes and five road crashes – getting a first fire engine after the 10-minute deadline.
Union members and supporters are planning to lobby against the cuts at a Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority meeting to be held tomorrow.
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