Fire station under threat in shake-up

ELY Fire Station could lose its full-time firefighters under a range of budget cuts being considered by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS).

According to the proposals, Ely Fire Station would be downgraded from a day crewed station to a retained one, meaning there would no longer be full-time firefighters on site.

Under a retained system, firefighters would be part time and called out to tackle fires whilst also working other jobs.

The move, which is also being considered at St Neots and Wisbech fire stations, could save the service �933,000 but would means 26 wholetime jobs would be lost across the three stations.

Though the fire service has stressed that no decisions have yet been made, the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) has already pledged to oppose any changes to frontline services.

Kevin Napier, secretary of the Cambridgeshire branch of the FBU, said: “There is extravagance and expense in the support mechanism in the force – that is where money can be saved.

“It’s still early days – but we would oppose any moves that would affect frontline services. We must look a lot deeper before we even think about that.”

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Mr Napier also voiced concern about the fire service’s ability to recruit enough retained firefighters in the economic climate.

“The concept of the retained fire fighter had already taken a hit, as companies are not in a position to release people all the time in these difficult times.”

The county’s fire authority is meeting today (Thursday) to decide which of 10 priority areas it will explore in feasibility studies, including changes to administrative and non-operational services.

Many other controversial proposals are included in the report to meeting including a review of all pumps attending less than 120 calls a year, merging two full time stations in Peterborough, and possibly making Huntingdon a day time only fire station.

Cllr Fred Brown, who sits on the county’s fire authority, said: “Looking at the budget and making savings is one of the nasty things that we as an authority have to do at the moment. There just isn’t the money in the budget so we have to look at some economies.

“There is a hell of a lot of concern there about the proposals but what we have said as on overall is that when you look at the situation country wide, Cambridgeshire has been dealt a bum deal.

“We have not been recognised for the growth in the county as a whole or the rural nature of the area.”

The proposals have been put forward as part of CFRS’s bid to make more than �4 million worth of savings in the next four years to cope with reduced funding from central Government.

In 2011/12 and 2012/13 alone, the service’s budget has been reduced by 12.58 per cent with an expected 12.5 reduction for the following two years.

A spokesman for the fire service stressed that no decisions had yet been made.

She said: “The feasibility studies will allow the fire service to assess how much money could be saved, and how much that will impact on services. Our priority throughout is to minimise the impact on the public.”