Fire service cuts

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MP’s travelled to Huntingdon on Friday to meet with senior managers at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to discuss its budget cuts programme.

The fire service has identified that it must make between £4.2 million and £6 million worth of cuts to its budget over the next four years. The exact figure has not been decided yet and will be announced by the Government in November this year.

Manea retained fire station is threatened with closure because of the cuts and local people launhed campaigns last year to keep the village station open.

On Friday fire and rescue service managers met with Cambridgeshire MPs Andrew Lansley, Stewart Jackson, Steve Barclay and James Paice to update them on how the Service plans to make these cuts and what impact this will have in terms of staffing and its service to the public.

Also in attendance was Roy Pegram, Chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority and representatives of the Fire Brigades’ Union.

Similar meetings will be held next week for the remaining MPs Julian Huppert, Jonathan Djanogly and Shailesh Vara.

Chris Strickland, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for CFRS said: “It is important to us that MPs are kept up to date on the budget cuts programme and what impact, if any, this is likely to have on their constituents.

“I would like to thank all the MPs who visited, and those visiting next week for taking the time out of their schedules to attend and hope that they will feed the information they have learnt back up to those in Parliament.”

CFRS has spent the last 13 months planning how it could make the cuts in time, with the least impact on members of the public and its frontline services. This preparation has involved consultations with staff and unions, discussions with Fire Authority members and the formation of a project team.

So far it has identified how it can save almost £4.2 million by a range of measures, including cutting support staff posts and budgets and negotiating a new shift system for wholetime firefighters. All these measures have been identified as having a minimal impact on the standards of service to members of the public.

Chris said: “The difficult decisions will come if we are forced to make more savings than this. A £6 million budget cut would be a reduction of about 20 per cent of our overall budget.

“We remain one of the leanest fire services in the country and if this happens we will have no choice but to make uncomfortable decisions about the frontline service we provide to the public.

“Obviously, this isn’t something that we will want to do, but it is something that we need to plan for and something that MPs and indeed everyone in Cambridgeshire needs to be aware of.”