A FORMER firefighter has raised concerns over plans to cut the number of crews located at the city's fire station overnight.

The fire service has recommended replacing one of the two overnight crews at Worcester Fire Station with a retained team.

Bosses say the changes are necessary because of a legal ruling over working hours.

However, a retired watch commander claims the move would put lives at risk.

Saul Bolton, who used to work at Malvern Fire Station, said: "It's the difference between life and death. It's going to add minutes to the response time.

"A fulltime fire crew is out the door in 30 seconds. A retained firefighter has to turn out within six minutes."

Mr Bolton said the one overnight retained crew currently operating in Worcester is not always available because of members of the crew booking time off and leaving.

He added that it is not guaranteed the new crew will be available at night.

Last year, the High Court ruled that South Yorkshire Fire Authority was breaching EU Working Time Regulations by allowing firefighters to work over 48 hours per week.

Nathan Travis, chief fire officer at Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, said: "That court ruled that if South Yorkshire couldn’t get a local agreement in place [with the Fire Brigades Union] then the requirements of the Working Time Regulations could not be modified to make that duty system lawful.

“Because of that national position from the Fire Brigades Union we have been unable to get a local agreement, which allows us to modify to Working Time Regulations which means that system is lawful.”

Mr Travis said that while retained crews were 'cost-effective', the proposed changes would not necessarily save money.

The chief fire officer added that the main difference between retained and fulltime staff is that the latter often stay at a station for their shift, whereas retained firefighters are within the local area.

A fulltime crew normally takes between a minute and two minutes to turn out, whereas a retained crew takes up to four minutes, according to Mr Travis.

He added that all of his firefighters are trained to the same standard in their core activities.

Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority will vote on the plans on February 11.