Anger at fire service review
By John HowardUNION officials voiced their concerns last night that Suffolk's fire service was being underfunded and that politicians' fear of spending too much money was putting lives at risk.
By John Howard
UNION officials voiced their concerns last night that Suffolk's fire service was being underfunded and that politicians' fear of spending too much money was putting lives at risk.
Their fears came as bosses at Suffolk County Council sought the public's views on the future of the county's fire service.
The fire authority has published its draft risk management plan, A Safer Suffolk, that contains a number of proposals and ideas for how the fire service could operate over the coming years.
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But the Fire Brigades Union said it had serious concerns about the proposals and was organising public meetings in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds later this month to discuss them.
Steve Brinkley, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the union, said: "We are all for a safer Suffolk, but we fear a lack of funding, that this is about cuts.
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"We are finding at the moment that the Government is not pumping any extra money in, other than the normal one or two per cent increase. That is not anywhere near enough.
"Nationally our union is campaigning for zero deaths in fires. We get zero tolerance on domestic violence, zero tolerance for drink-driving, but with the fire service politicians do not say they want zero deaths in fires because it will cost them too much money."
Suffolk County Council said there were 14 proposals in the plan and among the key points were:
n reducing from 24 to 12 the number of firefighters dedicated to using turntable ladders
n creating a flexible pool of retained firefighters to bolster daytime cover for parts of rural Suffolk
n revising shift systems for full-time stations to maximise efficiency
n adopting and publishing appropriate attendance standards for fires at homes and road traffic accidents
n looking at what equipment the service had for dealing with road traffic accidents and where it was sited so that it best met the risks on Suffolk's roads.
Mr Brinkley said: "We have objections to the plan and we will make a formal response to the plan in the New Year and will be organising some public meetings.
"In Bury St Edmunds they say they will have the aerial cover, the turntable ladder that can reach eight-storey buildings, but there would not be a dedicated crew with it.
"That's very problematic for us. It's difficult enough in Bury to get retained firefighters for a normal crew, let alone for this."
Peter Monk, the county council's portfolio holder for public protection, said: "Suffolk's fire and rescue service is something we all pay for through our council tax, but hope we never have to call upon.
"How it operates and meets the needs of this varied and rural county is something we have looked at in great detail. It is vital that local people and businesses give their views."
After consultation, the plan will be submitted to the county council's executive committee for adoption with a view to implementing it from April.
n Copies of the plan are available at public libraries or by contacting 01473 588861 or 01473 264871.