Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service cuts retained firefighters from 487 to 390 to save £1m

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has cut the number of retained firefighters from its budget. Photo: Andy Baker

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has cut the number of retained firefighters from its budget. Photo: Andy Baker

Fire chiefs plan to save £1 million by slashing the number of retained firefighter posts – because they cannot recruit enough of them.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has cut the number of retained roles in its budget from 487 to 390.

But the service will still not have enough full-time equivalent (FTE) retained firefighters to fill the posts, and is running a recruitment drive to find more.

It comes after The Sentinel reported in October that the service planned to axe 40 firefighter roles by 2018 to save £1.6 million.

The county brigade needs to slash £4 million from its budget by 2020. Fire chiefs say cutting the number of retained posts in the budget will save £1 million a year without reducing the level of cover.

The move would mean the number of retained staff on an appliance will be reduced from six to five.

Tim Hyde, the service’s director of response, said: “Around 80 per cent of our whole budget is spent on people, so we clearly needed to make a reduction to our workforce.

The service must make savings from its budget

The service must make savings from its budget

“The problem we had to get over was we didn’t want to reduce fire cover across the county.

“What we have effectively done is reduce the crewing of our retained fire stations by 20 per cent.

“We have not made anyone redundant – we have reduced the number of vacancies we have by reducing the total establishment.

“We have still got the same number of fire engines in the same places.”

As of January 1, the service will have 248 wholetime firefighters and 384 retained.

Because of the various hours the retained staff work, this equates to 316 FTE retained firefighters, leaving 74 posts empty.

Staffordshire Fire Authority vice-chairman, and Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor, Ross Irving welcomed the change. He said: “Overall this is protecting the cost savings required while keeping the level of service we need.”

Richard Williams, Staffordshire brigade secretary for the Fire Brigades’ Union, said reducing the number of retained posts would allow the service’s limited budget to be better spent.

He said: “We are not filling the gaps in the retained establishment but they can’t use that money for anything else, so this is resetting the budget.

“They were budgeted to have six people on an appliance, now it will be five.

“Taking into account we are struggling to recruit the response the public is going to get will not change.”

All but three of the county’s 33 fire stations have a retained crew. Anyone wanting to join must be available for a minimum of 50 hours per week and live within five minutes of the fire station – although this could be extended to up to eight minutes in some areas to aid recruitment.

Mr Williams said: “It is difficult to recruit retained firefighters. It’s not massive amounts of money, a lot of people do it for the community.

“I would encourage people to visit their local fire station, take an application form and look into whether they are able to provide cover there. It’s really important both for public safety and firefighter safety.”