FENLAND District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel met Graham Stagg, Chief Fire Officer from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue, yesterday (July 4) at an extraordinary meeting of the panel to discuss the Fire and Rescue service’s proposed efficiency savings and in particular the proposal to close Manea Fire Station.
Afterwards Councillor Pop Jolley, the panel’s chairman, issued the following statement: “Mr Stagg agreed to meet us to discuss Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue’s proposals for efficiency savings. We had a very positive and constructive meeting, lasting more than two hours, at which he answered a number of detailed questions that we put to him about the plans.
“These focused on our main concerns - the potential closure of Manea Fire Station; the potential increase in attendance times and reduced cover due to fewer appliances; the capability of the Fire and Rescue Service to continue to deal effectively with water-related incidents; and the need to ensure that fire appliances were suitably equipped to handle Fenland’s rural road network
“Following the discussion we are putting forward a series of recommendations which we want taken fully into account during the Fire and Rescue service’s continuing discussions over the coming months. We welcome the assurance given by Mr Stagg that no decision about the possible closure of Manea Fire Station will be taken at least until May 2012.”
The panel’s recommendations include:
*To endeavour to prevent the reduction in frontline fire and rescue services in Fenland and the surrounding area through the effective review of all other organisational commitments.
*To keep Manea Fire Station open to prevent future loss of life due to increased response times to incidents.
*To review the removal of all second appliances to prevent future loss of life due to increased response times to incidents.
*To review the removal of the Thorney appliance due to high level of attendances at road traffic accidents on the A47 and the increased response time from appliances coming from Peterborough or Wisbech to serious incidents.
* To review the equipment and training utilised in Fenland fire stations to incorporate specialist apparatus and knowledge to suit the Fenland environment, especially when responding to water-related incidents.
*To review staffing schedules to ensure fire stations are staffed in line with high demand for fire and rescue services.
*To explore all opportunities for shared services to generate efficiency savings to prevent reductions in frontline services.
Cllr Jolley added: “We understand the severe financial pressures that all public services are under in these difficult economic times. However, we view the service provided by Manea Fire Station as vital not only for the people of Manea but for Fenland as a whole.
“We and everyone in Fenland need to continue to fight hard to retain the station at Manea. Its closure would send out the message that a life in Manea is worth less than a life in Chatteris or March. That is not acceptable
“Local people can also do their bit to help ensure the station is sustainable in the future by applying to become firefighters themselves.
“We will continue to monitor closely the continuing discussions about the future of the fire and rescue service in Fenland.
“Mr Stagg has offered to return to us again in future to answer any further questions we may have.”