Stone Fire Service cuts confirmed

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SFRA Chairman County Councillor Len Bloomer (right) with County Councillor Philip Jones (left)

It’s definite: Stone’s brand new £3 million Community Fire Station is set to lose one of its two fire engines and seven retained firefighter posts. However, no job losses are involved.

Confirmed at the July 13th meeting of the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority, the £77,000 cut is part of the £1.1.million savings the FRA is making this year by removing one fire engine at Stone, Lichfield and Rugeley and by axing over 40 potential firefighter posts county-wide.

For the time being, Stone’s neighbouring fire stations at Stafford and Eccleshall remain unaffected.
But as the FRA has a savings target of £1.7 million for 2015/16, further cuts of £600,000 are in the pipeline. Where these will fall will be decided by the Staffordshire Efficient Response Options (SERO) review which concludes at the end of this year.

However, the FRA ruled out the Fire Service’s proposed ‘New Delivery Model’, a more radical option to close 18 of Staffordshire’s Fire Stations and reduce its 42 fire engines by over two thirds.
Decisions on the cuts followed a 12-Community Safety Options consultation exercise across the county with two public meetings held in Stone.

The cuts are manageable because of the Fire Service’s successful fire prevention ethos, stressed FRA Chair Councillor Len Bloomer.

“This ethos is very clearly working, demonstrated by the fact that operational demand has decreased by around 33 per cent over the last six years. The changes that we have agreed to will see operational capacity reduced by less than 10 per cent. There will be no job losses as a result of today’s decisions.”

Stone County Councillor Philip Jones added

“This is good news for us in Stone. We retain our response capability. SFRA has shown strong leadership. I would urge all the blue light authorities to merge their back office and control rooms to reduce costs as Government now requires”

But Chairman of the Fire Brigades Union in Staffordshire Rich Williams claimed the service had already been running under capacity during the consultation which is why the posts being cut were not counted as job losses.

“The FRA is out of touch with the public who feel chronically let down over cuts to services in their area,” he claimed. “They have made these decisions despite having £11 million in reserves.”

But Eccleshall County Councillor and FRA committee member Frank Chapman who voted for the cuts countered that the FRA was making inroads into its reserves in meeting the present budget constraints.

“Further inroads will undoubtedly be made as the Service examines new sustainable methods of providing an efficient service,” he told the Gazette. Reserves can only be spent once and should not be used to support year on year expenditure.”

“Staffordshire FRA has a well-proven prevent and protect agenda which has played a considerable part in driving down demand,” Cllr Chapman continued. “As a member of the Authority I am fully committed to the provision of an efficient Fire and Rescue Service which will continue to protect our communities and the firefighters providing the service.”

At the time of writing, the timetable for implementing the cuts was yet to be announced.