Council tax will rise by 2.95 per cent this year to fund Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue – while fire chiefs are also expected to rubber-stamp a controversial plan to cut nighttime cover in Ashfield and Retford.
Members of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Authority have just announced the decision - stating “Nobody in this room wants to see an increase in CT but the fact is if it doesn’t go up, the service will suffer.”
The meeting is now expected to consider the planned reduction in night-time provision - with plans in place to replace full-time firefighters at both stations with retained staff, who would need to travel from their homes to both fire stations to respond to emergencies.
Protestors turned up at Fire Service HQ near Arnold from 9am this morning to oppose the planned changes.
Speaking before the meeting, Ashfield Independent leader Councillor Jason Zadozny said: “Our members are absolutely terrified that the five minutes that this would add onto journey times will mean the real difference between life and death for people in Selston and Sutton and places like that.
“It’s about where you balance the finances. But do you think that’s worth more deaths? We don’t.
“I am absolutely not going to support that rise when Ashfield residents are paying more for less. That is postcode politics.”
The Fire Authority want to introduced ‘mixed crewing’ at Ashfield and Retford Fire Stations in a bid to save £500,000 a year.
Ashfield is currently open 24 hours a day and has 26 firefighters. After a consultation, the Fire Authority is recommending a reduction to 12 full-time firefighters working during the day, from 8am to 6pm.
There were also angry outburst at the meeting after a presentation claimed a ‘mixed crewing’ system would work in Ashfield as it is ‘closer to other stations’
One resident shouted: “Disgraceful. We’ll just rely on Derbyshire then, shall we?”
Responding, Chief Fire Officer John Buckley said he had “not put forward the proposals lightly” but steps had to be taken to meet savings target, and the alternative would be redundancies and station closures.
Meanwhile Worksop Fire Station, which was also being considered for the controversial staffing cuts, is is in line for a multi-million pound revamp.
According to the service’s budget proposals, Worksop station, which is one of the service’s oldest, is in line for a £250,000 revamp – with a further £2,265,000 being allocated the following year.
A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue said: ““It is accepted changing an appliance from wholetime to retained will lead to a slight increase in attendance times.
“However, this will only affect a small number of incidents, and will only impact one of the appliances attending.
“For context, at least two appliances are mobilised to property fires, and at least three are sent if there is a life risk.
“This type of 24/7 system, mixed crewing, has been used by fire and rescue services across the UK for many years and, in addition, half of the service’s appliances are already crewed by retained staff.
“There is no evidence to suggest response times or capability of crews is an issue in those areas.
“There is also a perception that appliances are located at stations waiting to be called out, and will only respond in their local area. This is not the case as control room procedures ensure the most appropriate and quickest appliance is mobilised, even if that means it is provided from another authority.”
More to follow . . .