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Eleventh hour bid delays fire cuts decision

Worcester Editorial 20th Feb, 2014 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

PLANS to cut one of the whole-time crews from Worcester Fire Station have been temporarily put on hold after an eleventh hour bid to give the service more money was approved.

Councillors were set to rubber stamp proposals put forward by Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service at a meeting on Wednesday (February 19) to cut £4million from the authority’s budget over the next three years including £1.7million from the frontline.

It would have seen the loss of five engines across the two counties, including one at Worcester, leaving the city with just one full-time and one part-time crew. The Fire Brigades Union estimates about 20 firefighters could be made redundant.

But Labour councillors made a last minute amendment to take £485,000 out of the service’s £1.5million savings to lessen the impact of the cuts, despite objections from the Conservatives the budget for 2014/15 was balanced and any additional cash would be better spent in future years.

It has been suggested the new money could be enough to save the crews under threat but final details will not be known until the next meeting of the authority in June.

Julian Jenkins, chair of the Hereford and Worcester branch of the FBU, welcomed the move but added it was probably only delaying the inevitable.

He warned the proposals for Worcester could result in an extra five minutes being added to the current fire crew response times of between eight and ten minutes.

“Are you happy you are going to wait five minutes longer while your house is filling with smoke or you are trapped in that car?” he added.

“People will get hurt, people will die.”

Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates said they would re-examine their proposals following the authority’s decision but warned the money would only last 12 months.

“The funding gap is still there, we still need to find £4million over the next three years,” he said.

“Proposals to remove resources from the fire service is a dark day. I’m a fire officer of 30 years experience and I didn’t join or become a chief fire officer to remove resources.

“But I did come to do my best job and if that best job involves removing resources to balance the budget then that is what I must do even though I don’t personally wish to.”

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