A COUNTY leader has denied claims that 26 firefighters in Ellesmere Port face the axe.
Cheshire Labour chief Derek Bateman stressed there will be no redundancies and no loss of fire cover under a shake-up of the current fire management practices.
He was responding to concerns that Cheshire Fire Service's new Integrated Risk Management Plan could put lives at risk in Ellesmere Port.
The town's fire station, in Wellington Road, is one of two in Cheshire piloting changes to firefighters' shift patterns designed to make the service more efficient.
Cllr Bateman, a member of Cheshire Fire Authority, said: 'Firefighters are not going to be made redundant and fire cover will not be reduced at all.
'In fact, the emphasis of the plan is on safeguarding lives, not property.
'The service is going to be flexible and have more mobile resources. Fire engines will not be parked in stations waiting for fire calls but out and about in the streets as crews do fire safety work in the community.
'We are hoping there will a full range of appliances in all fire stations, not just the three fire engines.
'These vehicles will have the same equipment and more, including foam tanks, and will be able to get to jobs faster and ride over rough terrain. Vehicles will change for the better.'
Cllr Bateman (Lab, Central & Westminster) said all firefighters were being asked which of several types of shift pattern they want.
He added: 'This strategy is a good one, but it seems some people have got the wrong end of the stick.'
Stuart Guy, secretary of the town's Fire Brigades Union branch, called the plan a 'retrograde step'.
He claimed: 'From April 1 next year Ellesmere Port will have 26 fewer firefightersand onelessfireappliance. Firefighters from the 76 across four shifts will go down to 50 across five.'
But Cllr Bateman said any reductions will come from firefighters up for retirement or moving shifts. He added: 'The staffing will sort itself out.'
Borough councillor Ian Ormerod (Lab, Strawberry Fields) is campaigning to retain all three fire engines.
He said: 'It will be detrimental to the people of Ellesmere Port if we lose one.'