Approval for phase one of ‘worse case scenario’ fire budget cuts

PHASE One of a ‘worst case scenario’ plan of action has been approved by Fire Authority members, allowing Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to act quickly if budget cuts are more severe than first thought.

At its meeting on Thursday, members of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority approved all the recommendations made by the fire service on what should happen if the budget cuts imposed on the fire service exceed £4.2 million already planned for with one minor amendment.

The recommendations which were approved include downgrading Huntingdon Fire Station to Day Crewed status.

A further meeting in May will look at other proposals including closure of Manea fire station.

Chris Strickland, Deputy Chief Fire Officer said: “It is important that members of the public realise that the recommendations which were approved today form part of our ‘worst case scenario’ plan of action and will only be implemented if the overall budget cuts exceed the £4.2 million we have already planned for.”

Additionally members agreed that if the cuts exceeded £5.5 million, then the Service would need to look at making further cuts to its support services and officer provision, which would take the savings over the £6 million mark. This would prevent the need for deeper cuts to frontline services. They also agreed not to identify any further savings until the final amount of cuts had been identified.

The Government’s spending settlement, which was due to be published in November 2011, has been delayed by a year and is now due for December 1 this year. This means that all fire and rescue services in England and Wales are unclear about exactly how much budget cuts they will have to make and are being forced to make predictions instead

Chris Strickland said: “We anticipate that we will have to make £4.2 million worth of budget cuts between April 2011 and April 2015.

“We have planned for these and are confident that we will be able to deliver them without impacting on the delivery of our frontline service to the public.

“While we are confident that the savings will be around the £4.2 million mark, it could be between £4.2m and £6m, and there is nothing to stop the cuts going above this figure.

“We have a duty to plan for this and to keep the residents of Cambridgeshire informed of what is happening. We can’t bury our heads in the sand, cuts this severe would have to result in fewer fire engines and a reduction in service to the public. This isn’t something we want to do, but we do have a duty to plan for this, so we can take action if we need to.

“It’s also important to stress that even if the figure is £4.2 million, making these cuts will not be easy and will severely impact on how well we are able to support our frontline service. With reduced numbers of support staff we will only be able to maintain the bare minimum in terms of support for the frontline and won’t be able to continue delivering groundbreaking and innovative work as we have in the past.”