Fire Service unveils time-table for cuts

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CAMBRIDGESHIRE Fire and Rescue Service is progressing the work agreed by the Fire Authority in May to identify how it can save £4.2-£6 million over the next four years to meet the Government cut in funding.

Some of the recommendations presented were agreed and the Service is currently working on implementation plans for these. Other recommendations were for detailed business cases to be presented at a future meeting to enable Fire Authority members to make a decision on whether the identified cut in service should be made.

Part of the work so far has been to identify realistic time-scales for when each of the business cases can be presented back to the Fire Authority, with consideration given to when the savings need to be made by and when the different recommendations should be implemented, if agreed, to minimise the number of redundancies.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland said: “Our own staff and residents will want to know, and should know, when they can expect decisions around some of the areas we are looking at to see if we can make cuts, and we want to keep staff and residents as up to date as we can. We have now agreed a time-line of when we anticipate papers will be presented back to the Fire

Authority for a decision.”

At the next Fire Authority in October, the following will be presented:

• An update on the agreed recommendation to cut a further £1 million from non-operational budgets

• An update on negotiations with the Fire Brigades Union to implement a new shift pattern for whole-time firefighters to save around £900,000

• An update on the agreed recommendation to remove a number of specialist appliances from service.

• Recommendations from the outstanding feasibility studies the Fire Authority agreed for the Service to complete in January.

At the last Fire Authority in May, members agreed to a number of recommendations for the Service to produce detailed business cases for areas where further cuts might be made. These were for:

• The redesignation of Huntingdon Fire Station to Day Crewed or Day Crewed Plus.

• The removal of the rescue vehicle from Huntingdon

• The closure of Manea Fire Station

• The removal of the second fire engines from St Ives and Ramsey.

The Service plans to present the business cases for the redesignation of

Huntingdon and the removal of the rescue vehicle to the Fire Authority in

February and the remainder of the business cases in May next year.

The final agreed recommendation to carry out further analysis into five other retained fire engines - Burwell (incorporating Swaffham), Soham (second appliance), Ely (second appliance), Thorney and Gamlingay - to see if it is feasible to remove any of them from service, will also be presented to the Fire

Authority in February 2012. If the Authority decides that one or more of the fire appliances should be considered for removal, associated business cases

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland said: “The feasibility studies showed us that these were all areas where we might be able to make savings with as least impact as possible on the county as a whole. The business cases require us to look at these options now in more detail and we want to have the time to collect as much data and information as we can to enable the Fire

Authority to make an informed decision. Therefore we are proposing to present our findings for these decisions in February, May, and September.

That still gives us time to implement any that are agreed by April 2014, and also gives us time to speak to people in the communities affected.”

Chris continued: “There are still a number of areas left that we wanted to complete feasibility studies for that we agreed with the Fire Authority in

January and these will be brought back to the Fire Authority in October this year with any recommendations. They are potentially the areas we would look at if other options do not get agreed or our funding is cut by more than we have estimated for years three and four. We won’t know the actual total of savings we need to find until probably next year but they will still need to be found in years 13/14 and 14/15. Therefore we want to plan now to ensure we are not left having to make rushed decisions if the worst case scenario of £6 million cuts becomes a reality.”

The remaining feasibility studies are:

• A study to see if Stanground can be changed to Day Crewed Plus

• A review of the second fire engine at Cambridge

• A review of the status of the three day crewed stations at Ely, St Neots and Wisbech

• A study to see if March Fire Station should go to nucleus crew status (this would be an investment not a cut)

• A study to see if the merger of Dogsthorpe and Stanground is a feasible option to save money.

Chris concluded: “Until we have completed the feasibility studies, we will not know the full impact these changes might have on our ability to deliver a Service to the community. It may be we recommend to the Authority that we only make these changes if the final level of cut we have to make means we have no choice.”