Fire Authority Meeting
The Fire Authority has also confirmed that out of the original Community Risk Management Plan (CRMP) proposals to potentially remove ten fire engines from the Service's forty-three frontline fire engines, a decision has been taken to remove two on-call second response fire engines. Furthermore, the Fire Authority has agreed to a change to some of the crewing systems and numbers of firefighters on fire engines at some fire stations.
Following a detailed consultation process the Authority considered the draft CRMP together with additional options that had arisen following the deferral of this item on two previous occasions and requests for further information from Members of the Authority. The Authority needs to address an overall budget shortfall of over £6 million in a five year period and whilst 73% of these savings will come from reductions in back office and management roles and through a range of internal service improvements, £1.7 million still needs to be found.
At the meeting Members agreed:
- No fire engines will be removed from Hereford or Worcester fire stations.
- The second permanently crewed fire engines at Hereford and Worcester fire stations be changed to the Day Duty system, which is 12 hours permanently crewed and 12 hours on-call duty crewed in each 24 hours.
- The second on-call fire engines at Ledbury and Tenbury fire stations be removed from the Service's fleet of fire engines.
In addition to the above the Authority also agreed to change the numbers of crew on some other stations but deferred the implementation of this by use of reserves. They also instructed the Chief Fire Officer to investigate the feasibility of changing the day duty crewed fire engines at Hereford and Worcester, at some stage in the future, to also include permanent night cover, a system called Day Crewing Plus.
Cllr Derek Prodger MBE, Chairman of Hereford & Worcester Fire Authority said, "The detailed consultation process around the CRMP explored a number of ways in which the Authority could make the necessary financial savings. Following the consultation and further deliberation by the Authority, and in the light of some improvement in the financial position, the Authority has agreed a way of making the savings mainly through changes to crewing systems and crewing levels and by removing two fire engines instead of the ten that were originally proposed. Of course, we would prefer not to have to make savings from the frontline, and we recognise the concerns of the wider community, but we must deal with the budget shortfall we are facing. We have no other choice.
I have full confidence in the Chief Fire Officer and his management team, and we are satisfied that the detailed analysis, the public consultation and the revised proposal agreed today will allow us to make these changes with the least possible impact on our communities."
The draft CRMP document originally proposed that the Authority could potentially close four fire stations (Bewdley, Broadway, Kingsland and Whitchurch), and that ten fire engines could be removed from the Service's fleet. With an improvement in the financial position, mainly through an increase in the predicted amount of council tax to be collected, it has been possible to make less drastic changes and still achieve the budget savings now needed.
Changing the crewing system on the second fire engines at Hereford and Worcester fire stations offers a pragmatic solution to ensuring that both stations retain their three fire engines.
"Closing a fire station will always be a last resort for this Authority," said Cllr Prodger. "At this moment in time we can meet most of our budget shortfalls by changes to back office and management structures as well as several other savings away from the frontline, indeed we have made over £4m savings in this manner already. However, there is only so much back office that can be taken without having an adverse impact on the Service itself. This means that some frontline savings are necessary, and the revised proposals do this with as little impact as possible. The Chief Fire Officer and his team continually strive to make efficiencies away from the frontline, but while we may be faced with some more tough decisions again in future years, for now these changes will help to meet some of the immediate savings needed."
Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates said, "I am proud to work for Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and believe we provide an excellent service across our two counties. Our staff are dedicated to making Herefordshire and Worcestershire safer, and while it is very hard to make changes that affect our frontline response, I do believe that we will still be able to provide an excellent service for our communities.
"I would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to our consultation, because it was important for us to have an honest discussion about some significant issues and proposals being put forward. I echo the Chairman's comments, and feel that although I would not wish to lose any of our frontline fire engines from the fleet, the recommendations approved today represent the best option in the present circumstances."