By Connie Osborne Thursday 24 October 2013 Updated: 25/10 07:54
THE COUNTY’S six MPs have called for a rethink over plans to cut frontline fire services in Worcestershire.
Representatives for Redditch, Bromsgrove, Wyre Forest, Worcester, West Worcestershire and Mid Worcestershire, have written 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 plans to save £4.7 million over the next three years.
Under the proposed cuts Redditch Fire Station could lose one of its two on-call engines as well as six on-call firefighters, while 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.
Five of them 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. Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid supports the move but was unable to sign as he is a Treasury minister.
Redditch MP Karen Lumley said: “The proposed new service levels are not acceptable to us and we have asked the Fire Authority to have a re-think and look at other ways of making savings before considering this strategy.
“I, alongside other local MPs, will lobby the Minister in attempting to increase the grant settlement for the local fire service and we hope that the Fire Authority will respond positively to this challenge.”
But Julian Jenkins, brigade chairman for Hereford and Worcester’s branch of the Fire Brigades 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.
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