Cuts to Essex fire brigade approved

Cuts to the number of fire engines and firefighters in Essex have been approved this afternoon.

Essex fire crews

Essex fire crews

The Essex Fire Authority voted for option two in its modernisation programme, designed to change the way Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) works in the wake of increasing prevention work and reduced demand.

Option two includes Dovercourt, South Woodham Ferrers, and Dunmow fire stations to go from day crewed (full-time firefighters weekdays 9am-6pm, on-call nights and weekends) to on-call all the time, and Pinzgauer (off road engines) to be removed from Dunmow, Manningtree and Burnham. Only Dunmow will definitely have it replaced with a second fire engine.

Other changes include Frinton having its second fire engine removed and Clacton’s second fire crew to go from full-time to on call.

Overall in Essex the number of whole-time firefighters will fall from 570 to 432, while on call is to rise from 437 to 456. The number of fire engines will fall from 74 to 66.

The option, which will save the authority £6.4million, also commits it to a council tax rise of 2% – around £1.35 for a Band D home – each year for the next four years, and to spending £3m on community and preventative work. The authority faces a £3.2m reduction in government grant for the next financial year.

A number of councillors raised concerns about their local stations, including concerns over the changes to Dovercourt on the grounds of the port, chemical factory and oil refinery in the area.

However others pointed out each area would want to keep their local fire cover, but the authority had to consider the overall Essex-wide picture.

An amendment to keep fire cover at its current level at some stations, including South Woodham Ferrers and Dovercourt, was defeated.

Acting Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley must now draw up an implementation plan to present to the authority at its next meeting in September.