Fire cuts in Northamptonshire will cost lives claims union

Fire at the Sixfields Tavern pub. NNL-150712-020038009
Fire at the Sixfields Tavern pub. NNL-150712-020038009

In a week where a fire tore through a pub in Sixfields, major car crashes were seen on the M1 and A45 and a gas leak closed off part of St James - the county council has announced plans to cut £1.3 million from the fire service budget.

The Conservative authority’s proposals for the 2016/17 year are to review the amount of money it gives to Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue by working closer with police, by reducing “capacity” and by reviewing how it responds to incidents.

It also proposes to save £200,000 by reducing 
emergency planning activities.

Sheldon Fenning of the Fire Brigades Union’s Northamptonshire Brigade said the total £1.3 million reduction will be “devastating.”

“If you want fire fighters to go floods, to fires, to chemical spills, to car crashes, we are at the point where if you cut 
any more it’s not just the 
public who will be at risk, it will be the firefighters themselves.”

And on what a £1.3 million cut would mean to the fire service in Northamptonshire, he said: “It’s horrendous.

“That equates to five retained fire stations. It equates to Moulton fire station or the Mounts fire station.

“It’s just a devastating cut.”

There are currently only six full time fire stations across the whole county.

Mr Fenning, who works at Mereway station, said the £1.3 million cut effectively equates to a fifth of Northants Fire and Rescue’s entire budget.

He said any cuts to the main stations would lead to heaped pressure on the 14 retained part-time stations in the county.

“It’s not something that can be easily done.” He said.

“I know it is only out for consultation, but let’s face it either way you look at this, the people of Northampton are not going to be better off.”

The council’s emergency planning team develops plans and delivers training to various agencies across the county to help deal with emergencies such as floods, terrorism, and major fires.

Mr Fenning also said cutting it, in the light of recent floods in Cumbria, is a disaster waiting to happen.

“Emergency planning is unfortunately a game of probability.

“When things don’t go wrong, people look at it in the budget and think well it can be cut.

“But then when they do, as recent events have shown, we end up looking back and saying why weren’t proper procedures in place?”

The county council’s draft saving proposals are set to go out to consultation until January 9.

In that time Mr Fenning said more detail is needed of exactly how the council plans to achieve the £1.3 million in savings.