WORCESTER’S MP has joined his county colleagues in calling for a rethink over plans to cut front line fire services in Worcestershire.
Robin Walker joined MPs in Redditch, Bromsgrove, Wyre Forest, West Worcestershire and Mid Worcestershire, in writing a joint letter to the chairman of the Fire Authority, Derek Prodger, in a bid to reconfigure proposed changes to stations across the county.
The call follows the announcement by Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service which plan to save £4.7 million over the next three years.
Under the proposed cuts Hereford and Worcester stations could lose a full-time crew and 44 jobs could be axed across both.
A second proposal would see one on-call engine removed from Bromyard, Ledbury and Tenbury Wells while a third option would shut Bewdley and Broadway, with further closures or removal of engines across the border in Herefordshire.
All of the MPs attended a briefing by Mark Yates, Herefordshire and Worcestershire’s chief fire officer, and have been taking part in one-to-one briefings with senior officers over the last few weeks.
They have now agreed to write to the Fire Authority to urge chiefs to revisit the plans which they believe could weaken the service’s ability to deal with major incidents and provide appropriate levels of cover.
They have also written to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, asking for a larger fire service grant from the government and calls have been made to Worcestershire County Council to look into saving measures which would not affect frontline services.
Mr Walker said: “I want the Fire Authority to take another look at this plan and do more to take costs out of administration and back office rather than out of the front line.
“I believe there is more to be done in working with neighbouring authorities such as Warwickshire and Shropshire to share back office resources and reduce costs that way and I find it concerning that the plans currently on offer should suggest we need fewer fire engines than were actually deployed during the 2007 floods.
“Nobody is saying that the fire service should not be looking at how it can deliver its service more efficiently but I do have real concerns about the scope of the changes being consulted on and in particular the risk to resilience in losing such a large number of appliances and trained firefighters as set out in the current plan.
“The second pump at Worcester is currently the sixth busiest appliance in the whole Hereford and Worcester area and its crew play an important role in water rescue as well as their fire fighting role.”
But Julian Jenkins, brigade chairman for Hereford and Worcester’s Fire Brigade Union, said the MPs were ‘two years behind the times’ as calls had already been made to look for savings elsewhere including cutting backroom office staff and talks with other services had already taken place.
“The best thing they are doing is asking Eric Pickles for more funding. As a service we only get £14 per a head and the national average is £20 per head. If we got the national average we would potentially not be in this position,” he added.