Controversial fire service cuts put on hold

Worcester News: Controversial fire service cuts put on hold Controversial fire service cuts put on hold

A CRUNCH decision which could see Worcester lose one of its two 24-hour fire engines has been delayed.

Plans to save Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service £4 million – decreased from the previously forecast £4.7 million – by cutting front-line fire services were due to be decided by Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority today.

But the plans were put on hold after the organisation voted 11 to 10 to move £485,000 from its £1.5 million surplus into its revenue budget.

The plans included three proposals:

  • Removing one of two full-time fire engines each from Worcester and Hereford and one on-call appliance from Redditch.
  • Removing one of two on-call engines each from Ledbury, Bromyarrd and Tenbury fire stations. This was later amended to retain the one based in Bromyard.
  • Removing an on-call fire engine bases in Bewdley or Kidderminster, another in Broadway or Evesham, a third in Whitchurch or Ross-on-Wye and a fourth in Kingsland or Leominster. This was later removed from the plans.

Speaking before it was decided to delay the decision, Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates said it was “a dark day for the authority”.

“No member of staff, no member of this authority and no member of the public would like to remove any services,” he said.

“I do not suggest and never have done that they will have no impact.

“I am personally and professionally disappointed to have to do this.

“We want to do everything we can to avoid reductions on this authority.”

Speaking after the authority voted unanimously in favour of his proposal to defer the decision to its next meeting in June, Cllr Richard Udall said he hoped Worcester’s engines could be saved.

“It’s likely not going to be enough to prevent more cuts but It’s going to allow us more time to look at it,” he said.

Firefighters and members of the public opposed to the cuts packed into Worcester’s County Hall for the meeting and applauded when the decision was made.

Although Fire Brigade Union chief Julian Jones said he felt the decision was only “delaying the inevitable”, the union’s secretary for Hereford and Worcester Steve Gould welcomed the decision, and said he believed a new public consultation around the plans needed to be launched.

“It wasn’t something I expected to happen but I’m very, very happy it did,” he said.

The original public consultation on the proposals ran for 14 weeks from October 3 2013 until January 10 2014.

The authority also voted at the meeting to increase its council tax precept by 1.94 per cent, or £75.06 a year for a Band D property – a total increase of £1.43, or 3p per week.

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