'No way in the world' planned cuts won't affect response times says Northamptonshire firefighters' union

Plans to reduce the use of a specialist car crash response vehicle could add to response times, the FBU says.
Plans to reduce the use of a specialist car crash response vehicle could add to response times, the FBU says.

Plans to reduce use of a dedicated car crash response vehicle from a Northampton fire station will lengthen response times to emergency incidents by vital seconds, a firefighter's union fears.

Northamptonshire County Council is set to ratify plans to lose 12 full-time firefighters at Mereway station by changing the way the Technical Rescue Vehicle (TRV) based there is staffed.

Fire services attending a water rescue at Millers meadow yesterday.

Fire services attending a water rescue at Millers meadow yesterday.

The fire engine is currently used as an additional resource to all “specialist rescues” including car crashes and water rescues, but the council says all frontline appliances have been upgraded to include a full set of rescue equipment.

The move will save £400,000 a year and the council and the 12 jobs would be made up of unfilled vacancies, so no-one would be made redundant.

But Ben Muddle of the Northamptonshire Fire Brigades Union branch says the plans will have an effect on response times.

"There will no be less availability of frontline vehicles," he said.

Protesters outside County Hall last week.

Protesters outside County Hall last week.

"There is no way in the world it is not going to affect performance.

"In a fire or car accidents, seconds can cost lives."

The service in Northamptonshire consists of 22 fire stations, 28 fire appliances and a number of supporting specialist vehicles.

But there are serious concerns about the county council's Community Protection Plan, which outlines the vision for the fire service over the next four years.

Last week, Mr Muddle said drafts of the Community Protection Plan, that went out to consultation, did not contain the same level of detail as the proposals put before cabinet.

Around 40 FBU members protested outside County Hall over the plans last week, which also include moves to save £300,000 by setting up a single joint fire control room serving Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.

One control room worker at the protest said there could be as many as nine job losses from each control room.

"There is a possibility this could slow down response times," he said. "There will be a lack of familiarity with the area you are covering."

The FBU is calling for the full Community Action Plan to go out to consultation before it is approved.

But Northamptonshire County Council says the Technical Rescue Vehicle (TRV) at Mereway will still be available, but only at the "request of incident commanders."

A spokeswoman for the authority said: "“The TRV is an over provision for incidents involving two cars. This will enable the TRV to be available to attend those significant events where requiring specialist capability and at the request of incident commanders.

“This change is expected to reduce the call-outs of this vehicle and enable a review of the primary crewing. The plan is to remove up to 12 firefighter posts. This would be achieved through deleting current vacant posts, meaning there would be no redundancies required.”

On the control room merger, the spokeswoman said: "In recent years we have been working with fire colleagues in Warwickshire on plans to work jointly on control room operations, which includes a shared IT system with resilience across two locations

“This would follow models already in use by fire services across the country and would deliver better value for money, bearing in mind we now receive around 50 per cent fewer emergency calls than we did 10 years ago.

“Any reduction in posts will be achieved through natural wastage and voluntary redundancy where possible. Those staff affected are being kept fully up-to-date on the plans as the project moves forward.”