Spending Cuts Could Hit Fire Service Says FBU

GOVERNMENT spending cuts could hit frontline services in Cambridgeshire, the Fire Brigades Union has warned.

GOVERNMENT spending cuts could hit frontline services in Cambridgeshire, the Fire Brigades Union has warned.

Fire crews across the county face an anxious wait to find out just how far the Government’s Spending Review, which will be announced on October 20, will go and what it will mean for the fire service.

There are fears that some stations in Cambridgeshire could be downgraded and fire prevention initiatives scaled back as ministers go through the process of reallocating resources across all Government departments.

Phillip McQuillen, chairman of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) for Cambridgeshire, said he and his colleagues were planning for the “worst case scenario”.

He said huge efficiency savings had already been made over the past 10 years, but added: “I can’t see why the authority, the fire service and the union cannot just stand up and say ‘no’.

Cambridgeshire is down to the bone as it is,” Mr Mcquillen said. “If they start to make sizeable cuts to the budget, I don’t see what they could cut.”

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Even the issuing of free smoke detectors to homes is under threat after the Department for Communities and Local Government withdrew its funding, but the FBU believes further cuts could jeopardise frontline services.

“We are guessing what the cuts will be. However, if we are talking about the size of cuts the Government has already proposed, it will become difficult to provide the same quality of service.”

He said there were “clearly options for downgrading stations” and that the fire service would have to find its own funds if it wanted to continue to fit free smoke alarms for properties. “As with most organisations, 80 per cent of our budget is for people,” Mr Mcquillen said.

Cambridgeshire’s chief fire officer, Graham Stagg, said at this stage nothing was being ruled out.

“We will involve staff and the community in deciding how we find these savings and we will carefully consider the impact that the different options will have on our service delivery.”

But Mr Mcquillen assured people that union members would be prepared to sit down with the fire authority even if swingeing reductions were made.

“We don’t want any cuts but we feel we should sit down with the fire authority. We feel it’s our public duty,” he said.

General Secretary of the FBU, Matt Wrack, is due to visit Cambridgeshire on October 11 as part of a national tour of fire authorities. He will be at the Montagu Club, in Hartford Road, Huntingdon to discuss the cutbacks.