Concerns as Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service looks to save £3.3m

Firefighters fear the number of incidents will rise and jobs will be lost as Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) looks to make savings of £3.3m.

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As well as tightening its budget by this figure for 2016-2018, NFRS must also shave a further half-a-million from its spend by 2019.

The service hopes to offset the need for any redundancies with ‘natural wastage’, including staff retiring or people changing jobs.

But there are concerns that frontline services could be in jeopardy and communities put at risk.

Nottinghamshire & City of Nottingham Fire and Rescue Authority and Nottinghamshire Firefighters Brigade Union both blame the Government for forcing them into this position.

But the Home Office say local fire services must manage their own finances effectively.

Plans to tackle the cuts were due to be discussed during a meeting of the fire authority on Friday at fire service headquarters at Bestwood Lodge.

A retained firefighter, who is based in rural Nottinghamshire and wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I’m worried that there are less and less fire engines available to us up north. We have seen fire engines removed. This means that back-up and support is often coming from further away.

“We are always riding four [four firefighters], when there should be five or six, which means we have to jump in to dangerous situations without proper support and safe systems at work.”

Another, who has 16 years’ service and also wanted to stay anonymous, said: “I am worried about possible reductions in the community safety and vulnerable persons team, as they have shown a massive commitment to reducing fires and injuries across the city and county.

“But now people are retiring they are not being replaced. Which means fewer people on the streets stopping the fires from happening in the first place.”

The service, which has a budget of £41.2m for 2016-17, attended 9,518 incidents in 2015, 9,765 in 2014 and 9,468 the previous year.

The number of home safety checks carried out in 2015 was 4,441 – up from 4,010 in 2014 and 4,284 in 2013.

The service has not recruited any full-time firefighters since 2012, but there has been a big drive to take on more retained firefighters.

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Alan Coates, chairman of Nottinghamshire Fire Brigades Union, said there were concerns for both public and firefighter safety as they had to wait longer for back-up now that the number of fire engines had been cut.

He added: “We can’t point fingers at management for trying to save money, it’s the Government which is cutting the budget – and it’s getting down to a scary level. We’ve gone from 36 to 30 fire engines in five years. I don’t think it’s prudent to cut any more fire engines. They have got to look at other avenues of saving money.”

A report to the meeting reads: “The service has and will continue to place priority on engaging with our employees and trade unions to find ways to mitigate the need for compulsory redundancies, and to find these savings through greater efficiency, a review of our activities and realignment of services.

“Whilst it is inevitable that our workforce will reduce over the coming years, the way in which we manage this change process and maintain employee morale will be critical to our success.”

Wayne Bowcock, NFRS’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer, said that like other public sector organisations across the country, the service had had to make cost savings in recent years, and that it will continue to explore different options to ensure that, in the face of “further budgetary constraints”, it continue to deliver the excellent service that communities expect.

Councillor Darrell Pulk, chairman of the fire authority, said: “Clearly we would prefer if the government wasn’t cutting its funding but we are able to react and have done in the past and we do have a plan moving forward.”

Brandon Lewis, policing and fire minister, said operational and resourcing decisions — including the number of fire stations and firefighters — are a matter for the local Chief Fire Officer and fire and rescue authority.

“There is no question that fire and rescue services have the resources they need to do their important work, but like all parts of the public sector they will need to increase efficiency and deliver reform,” he said.