New fire plan for Northamptonshire could see changes to staff levels and duty systems as service tries to save £2.3 million

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Plans to change staffing levels, ways of working and duty rotas for Northamptonshire’s firefighters are being discussed in a bid to save £2.3 million, it has been announced.

The future shape of Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service is set to be decided with a new service plan for the coming years.

Northamptonshire County Council says that with a reduction in the number of incidents crews are being called out to – in 2004 they attended 12,500 incidents compared to 4,979 incidents in the 12 months up to April 2016 – and pressures on funding, changes need to be made to make the service “more efficient and suitable”.

The draft community protection plan covers the years up to 2020, and the fire service has been charged with finding £2.3 million of savings by the county council – around 11 per cent of its budget of £20.315 million – within that time.

The plan states: “Inescapably, the requirement for further efficiency savings will impact on the operational workforce and will require us to further explore alternative duty systems, ways of working and staffing levels.

“All options will be considered within the strategic fire cover model that best serves the new standards referenced earlier. In all cases, reductions in posts will occur through natural wastage wherever possible.”

One area where staff may end up being reduced is in the control room, as a new joint fire control project with Warwickshire moves forward.

Under the current fire service plan period, which started in 2013, there has been a 30 per cent reduction in support, admin and back office staff, and a 30 per cent reduction in senior fire officers not in frontline roles.

The future governance of the fire service could change as well; a report is due soon into what would be the best option out of range of models from keeping the status quo through to the Police and Crime Commissioner taking on responsibility for the fire service.

The community protection plan also says the fire service will continue to develop its collaboration with East Midlands Ambulance Service, share use of more of its bases and buildings with police and ambulance teams where appropriate,

The fire service will also open up its training facilities to be hired by other public emergency services and the private sector, including for team leadship days.

On Wednesday next week Northamptonshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to agree to consult on the draft plan. If they approve it, there will be a six week consultation on the plan, before it goes back to cabinet in February for a final decision.