Fire service ‘to be cut to the bone’

Bob Mould - FBU Brigade Secretary, Nottinghamshire.  Pictured outside Worksop Fire Station.  (w101231-1b).

Bob Mould - FBU Brigade Secretary, Nottinghamshire. Pictured outside Worksop Fire Station. (w101231-1b).

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RESPONSE to major fire and road traffic incidents in Worksop could be seriously affected by proposed cuts of £4.9m to Notts Fire and Rescue Service’s frontline budget – according to a union chief.

Fire Brigade Union secretary Bob Mould said Retford Station could lose its wholetime pump – leading to a major impact on response times to any major incidents across the district.

The full extent of the cuts won’t be decided until 25th February but job losses are expected and Warsop and Edwinstowe stations are likely to be shut.

Mr Mould blasted senior management salaries and said the service provided to taxpayers by Notts Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) would be almost “cut to the bone”.

“NFRS made huge savings when operational staff changed to the present shift system almost two years ago and last year £800,000 was put aside to fund a possible pay rise, which never materialised,” he said.

“When the brigade management were looking at which parts of the service to cut they should perhaps have looked at their own pay scales and perks.”

“Our present chief fire officer is one of the best-paid in the country with an annual wage of £139,000 and he was recently given a £15,000 handout by the fire authority to cover the cost of moving house.”

Mr Mould added the 12 county councillors who sit on the Fire Authority (FA) board should donate their annual council grant to help keep stations open.

“Fire Authority members need to be held to account because it is ultimately them who will decide whether to implement these cuts,” he said.

“These county councillors are given £10,000 per year to donate to worthy causes. If every FA member donated that amount a station could be kept open for another year.”

But Worksop county councillor and FA member Coun Sybil Fielding said this was not the answer, adding that a wide range of services would be facing severe cuts over the next few years.

“The councillor divisional fund is administered by the county council to focus much-needed support for many voluntary groups across the area,” she said.

“I am not convinced by the FBU argument of using this to help pay for a service that needs to be properly funded by the Government.”

Chief fire officer Frank Swann said analysis of the service showed Retford is considered a relatively low-risk area and Worksop could benefit from additional fire cover.

“We must give careful consideration to the way services are provided and make sure we invest in those areas of great need,” he said.

“Public safety is our priority and we will protect frontline emergency services wherever we can.”

He added: “It won’t be easy to make all the savings we need to find but we have made major investment in fire prevention and education work in recent years.”

“This will stand us in good stead as we now channel our remaining resources into other areas.”

FA chairman Coun Darrell Pulk added that senior managers did not receive a pay increase in 2010 and said the chief fire officer’s salary is reviewed every two years.

“Our senior management team works very hard. Together they manage a county-wide service that looks after more than one million people,” he said.

“When compared with other fire and rescue services and public sector organisations of a similar size and complexity, they represent extremely good value for money.”