60 firefighters could lose jobs in Warwickshire in move unions warn will put lives at risk
Possible redundancies part of Warwickshire County Council’s proposals to save millions of pounds by 2020
More than 60 firefighters could lose their jobs in Warwickshire in a move that unions say will leave the public at risk.
Across Warwickshire, there are currently around 325 firefighters and a proposal to cut 62 members of staff from Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service has been called a “gut wrenching kick in the teeth” by a union official.
The possible redundancies are part of Warwickshire County Council’s proposals to save millions of pounds by 2020, which includes slashing millions from the county’s fire service budget.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has already stated that the service is underfunded by £2.5million and warns that if more money is cut, the results could be devastating.
Pete Goulden, secretary of the FBU in the West Midlands, said: “Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service has suffered seven years of brutal cuts that have already compromised the service we deliver to the public.
“If councillors do vote to cut back the service, we will not be able to keep the public safe. Further cuts will decimate the service.
“We fear deeply for the people we won’t be able to save because of a lack of resources, and we fear for our firefighters who will have to deal with dangerous situations with fewer colleagues.
“It is a gut wrenching kick in the teeth for anyone who cares about the life saving emergency service. There are going to be a lot of distressed, anxious firefighters who face this festive season with a lot of uncertainty.”
The council is looking to make up a shortfall of £67 million and is considering cutting the fire service budget by £2.7million.
Cabinet members met yesterday and discussed the council’s medium term financial plan, which sets out the possible spending and job cuts to be made by 2020.
Part of the proposal is to increase the council tax by 1.99 per cent each year for the next three years, which could reduce the amount of savings the council needs to make before 2020.
The plans are still at a draft stage and more specific details will not be confirmed until the new year.
If the cuts are given the go ahead, 62 firefighters will face redundancy in the new year, five fire engines will be withdrawn from duty and the fire service could even be forced to merge with one of its neighbouring services.
A report published earlier this year by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said the appropriate annual funding for Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service was £24.8million, but if the cuts are voted through it will mean the county council will fund just £19.4m, resulting in a potential shortfall of £5.2million.
The union has highlighted disparities between Warwickshire and other counties. It has said that although the counties of Warwickshire and Shropshire share similar demographics, Warwickshire will spend just £22.12 per person on fire services if these cuts go through, compared to Shropshire’s £43.
In 2010, a new work schedule was introduced for the fire service, resulting in 50 per cent less firefighters on shift at any one time.
The target attendance time of 15 minutes before the vital second fire engine reaches an emergency is only met 68 per cent of the time, rather than the target of 75 per cent, and the union has said that one engine with one crew isn’t adequate to begin lifesaving operations at serious rescue incidents.
A final decision on the county’s budget is expected in early February 2017.