Fire Authority approve service recommendations

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FIRE Authority members approved a second round of key decisions yesterday (Thursday) that will enable Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) to act quickly once it finds out exactly how much it must save.

Chris Strickland, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for CFRS said: “The fire service still does not know how much money it will have to save in 2013/14 and 2014/15 and will only find out this figure once the fire service revised funding formula is published less than four months in advance.

“This means that the Service must plan now for the ‘worst case scenario’ and be ready to implement this quickly if needed to make sure it can make the savings in time. Thanks to the Fire Authority’s decisions today, the Service will be able to do this.”

The Service’s ‘worst case scenario’ involves the total level of savings that it must make rising from the £4.2 million originally predicted, to closer to £6 million and potentially even over this figure.

The Service has identified how it would make £4.3 million worth of savings without impacting on the delivery of its frontline service to the public.

However, if the cuts go over this figure, it will have an impact on the level of service that members of the public receive.

Chris Strickland said: “The key thing to stress is that the recommendations that members of our fire authority have approved today will only be implemented if we are forced to make savings of over £4.3 million.

“We remain one of the leanest fire services in the country and so we can’t sustain cuts over this level without directly impacting on our front line service.

If they totalled £6 million, this would be a reduction of about 20 per cent of our overall budget.

“It is also crucial to say that these are not cuts that we want to make, but it is right that we have planned for them and it is right that we make everyone in

Cambridgeshire aware of these plans.”

The formula was due to be published in November 2011, but has since been postponed until

December 2012. The latest indications from DCLG now indicate that the final figure will be around £5 million, however, this has not been confirmed officially.

Fred Brown, new Chairman of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire

Authority, who was voted at the meeting today (24), said: “A lot of sacrifice has taken place by frontline staff, non-operational staff, officers, managers and unions to ensure that the Service was in a position to make the recommendations it did today and all those involved should be commended for this.

“The decisions made today were difficult ones to make, but crucially they were the right decisions. We will continue to be aware of increased pressures on the fire service budget.”

Below is a full breakdown of the Fire Authority decisions made:

Five Watch Shift System

i Fire Authority decision: To agree to the implementation of a Five

Watch Shift System, which will result in the loss of 25 operational posts through natural wastage, without impacting on the level or quality of front line service.

Review of Non-Operational support services

i Fire Authority decision: To note the savings already made and to approve proposed reductions in support functions, such as

Administration, Handypersons and Catering, which will provide the rest of the savings in time for April 2013. This will result in a loss of 35 non-operational posts, 27 per cent of all non-operational posts.

Business Case to remove second away appliances at St Ives, Ramsey and Soham fire stations

i Fire Authority decision: Agree to remove these appliances, but only if the financial settlement in December results in a £4.6 million overall cut to budget.

Business Case to combine Swaffham and Burwell Fire Stations

i Fire Authority decision: Agree to combine these fire stations, based at Burwell Fire Station, but only if the financial settlement in December results in a £5.117 million overall cut to budget.

Business Case to close Manea Fire Station

i Fire Authority decision: Agree to close Manea Fire Station, but only if the financial settlement in December results in a £5.185 million overall cut to budget.

Business Case to close Thorney and Gamlingay Fire Stations

i Fire Authority decision: Delay making any decision on this until after December.

Business Case to remove second away Ely appliance

i Fire Authority decision: Delay making any decision on this until December.

Business Case for the removal of two rescue vehicles

i Fire Authority decision: To remove two rescue vehicles from Cambridgeshire, leaving one remaining. But only if the financial settlement in December is over £4.2 million. To mitigate any risk this might lead to, upgrades to ensure that fire engines carry additional rescue equipment should take place. A further business case will be developed to determine which rescue vehicles should be removed.

In addition to this, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority formally accepted Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service’s request to join the

Combined Fire Control.

Later in the meeting, it also gave its permission for a full business case to be carried out to explore the potential for greater levels of working, up to and including, a full merger between Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service. This is something which is being considered in order to make large savings in the future.