Bury St Edmunds will lose one of its on-call fire engines and six on-call firefighters as part of plans to cut Suffolk’s fire budget despite thousands petitioning against it.
Following a 14 week consultation, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s revised Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) has been completed and will now be discussed by Suffolk County Council’s cabinet on Tuesday May 17.
The plans include axing one of Bury’s three fire engines along with six on-call firefighters.
Results of the consultation revealed of 1,654 questionnaires completed, just 13 percent agreed with the removal of Bury’s third engine, with 77 percent disagreeing and 61 percent strongly disagreeing.
Meanwhile, 6,184 people signed a petition organised by Bury firefighters against the cuts.
However, Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham said he was confident the service could still provide robust fire cover for the area.
He said: “From a professional perspective I am satisfied, given the reduction on 999 demand, that the proposals still deliver a good Fire and Rescue Service across Suffolk.
“I am still satisfied that if you look at Bury, Ipswich and Lowestoft, Bury is the quietest in terms of call-outs.
“We get around two calls a day with the majority dealt with by one fire engine.
“If we need more we can call on additional stations.”
Mr Hardingam added there were no plans to make any on-call firefighters redundant, that the reduction would be met by not filling vacant posts over the next 12 to 18 months.
But Phil Johnson, chairman of the Fire Brigade Union in Suffolk, warned the plans would put the public in danger.
“It goes against the service’s resilience and its ability to respond,” he said.
“Any reduction to that is detrimental.
“It will put the public at more risk undoubtedly because it is a clear reduction in the service.
“We are not meeting our response standards as we are now.
“If you look at the Sudbury fire and the number of appliances that went to that think of the number of appliances that were unavailable.
“If we had two large incidents happening at the same time we would be struggling to deal with it.”
Elsewhere in the county, Sudbury will keep its second engine and on-call crew and Wrentham will keep its fire station.
Wrentham’s fire engine will be replaced by a rapid response engine and its on-call crew reduced by three.
Ipswich Princes Street fire station will lose its one of two full-time fire engines and 16 full-time crew.
Ipswich East will lose its third fire engine and six on-call firefighters and Lowestoft South will lose one engine and six on-call firefighters.
Councillor Matthew Hicks, cabinet member for environment and public protection, thanked the public for their engagement in the consultation.
He said: “People were very sceptical thinking we were not going to listen and were going to go through with it anyway.
“I am really proud of the consultation process and the 20,000 people who engaged with it.
“The message is we have to live within our means.
“The Government has reduced the money given to the county council and we still need to find these savings.”
Cllr Hicks said the IRMP would cut the fire budget by £1 million rather than the expected £1.3 million and they will have to find the extra £300,000 in savings over the next two years.