Fire Service seeks views on Community Plan
The plan proposes significant changes to fire engines and fire stations in order to address a predicted annual budget shortfall which rises to £4.7 million within three years. The Fire Authority will receive the draft Community Risk Management Plan (CRMP) which sets out how the Service intends to make some of the required savings from frontline operational response whilst at the same time having the least impact on the communities in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
The Fire Authority will meet on Thursday 3 October and if the proposed consultation is approved, the public, representative bodies and fire service staff will be consulted in the 12 weeks that follow.
Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates said: “In consultation with the Authority’s Treasurer it is my responsibility to present options to the Fire Authority to address the significant budget shortfalls we anticipate having to face. Over the past three years we have made significant savings from our management structures, procurement and back-office functions, which have resulted in slimmed down departments and unfortunately compulsory redundancies. We will continue to examine these areas of the Service and anticipate further savings of approximately £2m from non-frontline services.
“But to address overall savings of £4.7m we now have to look at our frontline. As part of the CRMP we have looked at all risks in the two counties and mapped out the number of calls each station has responded to over the previous five years. We have analysed this data very carefully and considered whether we could make changes to our operational response in order to assist making the savings needed.
“It appears to be inevitable that over the coming years we will have fewer fire engines and firefighters but we believe the proposals contained in the CRMP will have the least impact on the communities of our two counties and the safety of our firefighters.
“I accept that no-one, including myself, would wish to reduce the amount of fire engines available to respond to our communities but with the significant size of budget gap being faced, I believe the FRA may now have no choice.”
There are a number of proposals contained within the CRMP and those responding to the consultation will be asked:
- If they have any comments on the issues facing the two counties which will affect the Fire Service and its communities.
- If they have any comments to make on the financial issues facing the Fire and Rescue Authority and if they are able to suggest any alternative ways in which to make the savings needed.
- If they have any comments on the Service’s approach to understanding risk.
- If they have any comments on the focus of the Service’s work over the next few years.
- If they have any comments on how the Service has approached its review of fire and emergency cover.
- If they have any comments on the principles used to minimise the impact of removing fire engines.
- If they have any comments on the Service’s view of the future and how it intends to report back on progress.
The CRMP goes on to examine ways in which it could make significant financial savings in order to meet its budget gap. It sets out proposals for removing fire engines from stations aimed at minimising the overall impact on the communities of Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
Proposals 1 and 2 present the Service’s considered view on how fire engines can be removed with the least impact. Proposal 3 presents a choice between fire engines in four local areas or clusters. Depending on which fire engine is removed, this proposal potentially involves the closure of fire stations.
This proposal is to remove one of the two wholetime crewed fire engines from each of Hereford and Worcester fire stations, and one of the two on-call fire engines from Redditch fire station. If this proposal is implemented, these three fire stations will then be crewed in exactly the same manner, with one wholetime crewed and one on-call crewed fire engine, mirroring the current position at Kidderminster and Bromsgrove.
This proposal requires the removal of one of the two on-call fire engines from each of Bromyard, Ledbury and Tenbury Wells fire stations.
This proposal removes four fire engines, one from each of four clusters:
- North Worcestershire – we consider that the least impact can be achieved by closing Bewdley fire station, rather than removing one of the two fire engines from Kidderminster.
- South Worcestershire – we consider that the least impact can be achieved by closing Broadway fire station, rather than removing one of the two fire engines from Evesham.
- North Herefordshire – a choice needs to be made between either removing one of the two on-call fire engines from Leominster fire station or closing Kingsland fire station.
- South Herefordshire – a choice needs to be made between either removing one of the two on-call fire engines from Ross-on-Wye fire station or closing Whitchurch fire station.
Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates said: “Our priority after 3 October is to seek feedback from local communities and our staff. We know these are difficult decisions which we have to face and it will be a difficult time for all our staff who provide a professional and dedicated service."
“Residents and business owners within Herefordshire and Worcestershire should be assured that we have painstakingly analysed five years of response data and are confident that we can still provide a good level of emergency response across the two counties. However, I would urge people to read our Plan fully so that they understand the background and implications of the proposed changes.”
At the end of the consultation period, an analysis of the results will be brought back to the Fire Authority for consideration on 19 February 2014.