CHESHIRE Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU) has hit out at £5m cuts that could cost more than 100 firefighter jobs, claiming this will increase the risk to the public.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service wants to build more stations to deliver ‘a better response’ but the FBU says having fewer full-time firefighters will impact on the service.
County FBU union representative Dave Williams said: “Cheshire FBU have grave concerns regarding the cuts and the scale of the cuts that will directly impact on the emergency response capabilities and speed of response and that will increase the risk to the Cheshire public and firefighters.”
Initial changes would see four firefighters riding on the first fire engine instead of five, meaning the crew may have to wait for back-up before entering a smoke-filled property.
And one possibility could see Chester and Ellesmere Port stations each losing its second fire engine.
The Chester engine would be transferred to a new operational response hub close to the M53-M56 interchange and the Ellesmere Port pump could relocate to a new on call station at Neston.
But the FBU says this will lead to a delay in the arrival of the second pump.
Government cuts are driving the changes following a 40% reduction in incidents, with fewer house, business and rubbish fires.
This is largely due to fire prevention work such as fitting smoke alarms which the FBU says won’t be carried as effectively with fewer firefighters on the ground.
The FBU’s alternative plan is for the brigade to draw on its £9.5m reserves before considering front-line job cuts.
Cheshire Fire Authority is carrying out a public consultation on the cuts plan, which runs until December 17, with a decision expected in February 2013.