‘Help us save our fire service’

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FIRE Brigades’ Union members in Suffolk have warned that ‘reckless’ cuts will impact on its response times, which are already among the worst in the country.

The union is urging people to comment on Suffolk County Council’s Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) which is out to consultation until May 5.

Andy Vingoe, Suffolk FBU chairman, said: “In the past, as residents of Suffolk you may have had the misfortune to have to dial 999 and relied on your fire and rescue service to help you, now we, your fire and rescue service are relying on you to help us.”

Suffolk is currently ranked 41 out of 46 in the country for response times. The FBU says Suffolk already provides the cheapest fire service in the country and that the changes will lead to slower response times.

It has set up a Facebook page – Stop Cuts to Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.

The council plans to save £1.1 million a year by reviewing the firefighters’ shift system, reducing flexible duty posts and prevention and protection functions, remove funding for on-call fire station support, and change crewing arrangements at Haverhill, Felixstowe and for the Ipswich high reach aerial appliance.

FBU county secretary Andy Message said the proposals equated to 28 less frontline firefighters and would be felt across the county.

Deputy chief fire officer Mark Hardingham admitted it would lead to instances where fire engines took slightly longer to get to incidents and a reduction in its fire safety role but added that a community volunteer scheme was being set up to continue fire education.

“We are going to have less money – over the next four years funding for the fire service is to be reduced by 12.5 per cent. With less money we need to make sure we maintain an effective fire service,” he said.

Cllr Colin Spence, the elected portfolio holder for the fire service, declined to be interviewed.

View the proposals at www.suffolk.gov.uk/IRMP or at your nearest library.