Fire cuts put lives at risk

PROPOSALS to axe Buxton’s second fire engine along with up to five retained firefighters could put lives at risk, the Fire Brigades Union have warned.

Derbyshire Fire Authority last week agreed to consult on proposals to cut the second fire engine at Buxton, leading to the loss of up to five “on-call” or retained firefighters.

And the authority have also agreed to restructure the county’s fire service, which has seen its budget cut by £5 million.

The proposal has been slammed by the Fire Brigades Union. Chris Tapp, FBU Derbyshire Brigade Chair, said: “FBU Derbyshire oppose cuts to front line services. Cuts to front line services will impact on the community of Buxton and ultimately these could impact on firefighter safety. The FBU will not compromise on firefighter safety.

“Cutting the number of fire engines and firefighters means it will take longer to answer emergency calls and could put lives at risk.”

Consultation on the proposal to remove Buxton’s second appliance, as well as three other appliances at stations across the county, will now take place with local communities and interested parties as well as with employees of the Service after the fire authority said the second fire engines at Buxton, Clay Cross, Ashbourne and Shirebrook “appear to contribute very little to the fire cover requirements within the county of Derbyshire.”

Removing the second appliance at Buxton and losing five retained firefighters will mean that the fire station will be staffed by full-time firefighters only.

The consultation period for the proposals to cut the appliances has not yet been determined but once completed, the outcome will be considered by the Fire Authority before a decision on whether to remove the fire engines is made.

The FBU are planning to meet shortly to discuss any future action regarding these proposals.

Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Sean Frayne said: “These are very difficult times for Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service and for fire and rescue services nationally.

“We believe that this new structure will enable us to reduce our expenditure as required by the Government’s comprehensive spending review but will also enable us to keep the people of Derbyshire safe. We we believe that this restructure will mean that even though we will be leaner, our standards will be maintained.”

The restructuring could result in the loss of up to 49.5 uniformed employees and 36 members of support with a freeze in the “on call” firefighter establishment.

A 60-day consultation period will begin on April 1 during which alternative options will be considered including flexible working, early retirement and voluntary redundancy as well as “natural wastage”.

Cllr David Wilson, Chair of the Fire Authority, said: “I am confident that the proposals submitted to and agreed by us will ensure that we retain a sustainable and resilient emergency service.”

Last summer, the Fire Brigades Union claimed Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service had only half the fire firefighters it needed and was failing to meet safety standards. The FBU said the service had avoided a serious accident more by luck than judgement.

Buxton is the only whole-time staffed fire station in the High Peak – the nearest similar station is Chesterfield.

Work is currently well underway on Buxton’s new £3.4 million fire station, which is expected to be opened in June.