UPDATE - Four West Norfolk fire stations could shut under funding cuts
Up to four West Norfolk fire stations could close and crews may be removed from two others if the county’s service has to endure further funding cuts.
The scale of the potential crisis has been set out in a new report published this morning, although no firm recommendations will be made for several more weeks.
Union officials have described the scale of the potential cuts as “shocking” and have pledged to fight them.
The document, which has been prepared by a working group of county councillors set up to review the future of the service, sets out how, and where, services may be lost in order to achieve savings.
It has put forward four scenarios for how the service could cope with reductions in its funding of eight, 10, 12.5 and 25 per cent. A 25 per cent equates to a loss of almost £7 million in funding.
The report lists four stations in the borough – Heacham, Massingham, Terrington and West Walton – which are among 11 across the county that may be at risk of complete closure.
Fire engines may also be removed from the Lynn North, Sandringham and Fakenham stations.
And the report says that, in the worst case scenario, 90 full-time and 146 retained firefighter posts would be lost across the county.
Union officials have already warned that the service is at “breaking point” before any further funding cuts are implemented.
And Kevin Game, secretary of the Norfolk branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) admitted some members are already discussing the possibility of taking industrial action if more cuts are imposed.
However, he added that was still a long way off and any decisions on that would be guided by the mood of the membership as a whole.
He said: “It truly is shocking. We just hope the politicians see how effective we are as a service.”
But the working group said a “basic” level of firefighting could be maintained even if funding is reduced by a quarter.
However, the report admitted the service would be reduced to the level of cover currently seen during periods of strike action if that level of cuts is required.
And they concede that as many as four more people may die each year if a 25 per cent cut is implemented.
Mr Game said: “Closing any station, downgrading any appliance or getting rid of crews has a detrimental effect on the safety of the public and that’s what we’re here for.
“The county council has to make its decision. As a union, we will fight it all the way and we hope the public will be fully behind us.”
Other options put forward under the smaller funding cuts include the potential upgrade of crews in Thetford and Dereham to 12 hour daily cover, by reducing the 24 hour cover of an engine at the Gorleston and Lynn North sites.
Second pumps may also be replaced with lightweight vehicles at several sites including Fakenham and Sandringham if the lowest level of cuts is implemented.
The report has been published as part of agenda papers for a meeting of the Norfolk County Council communities committee, which oversees fire services, next Wednesday.
However, firm recommendations will not be made until the October meeting.