Essex: Budget plans could extinguish fire redundancies fear

FIRE chiefs in Essex look set to abandon plans to close stations and make firefighters redundant as they try to save �10m, it has emerged.

It had been feared up to 17 of the county’s 50 fire stations would have to close to help Essex Fire and Rescue Service (EFRS) balance its books.

But the service will today publish plans to make the multi-million pound savings without fire fighter redundancies or station closures.

However EFRS has admitted 48 posts will be lost over the next two years but that all will come from staff retiring or leaving without being replaced.

The proposals include cutting the number of firefighters at Clacton-on-Sea and phasing out day crews from Dovercourt. The most controversial element is likely to be the move from full-time to retained fire crews at Canvey Island.

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Essex Fire Brigades Union said it would scrutinise the plans in detail over the coming days but that cutting fire fighter posts would mean a slower service.

David Johnson, chief fire officer at EFRS, said: “With staff costs making up three-quarters of the service’s budget, a reduction in firefighter posts is one of the primary moves we can make to cut costs.

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“But we have pledged to do all we can to ensure that those people working with us today who want to

be with us in four years’ time will have a job to do.

“Yes, that may mean fewer firefighters in establishment terms but it is a relatively straightforward option that will allow us to deliver on our commitment to our staff and ensure we do not compromise on the level of protection we deliver to the public.

“The plans we will outline to members will help us to deliver reductions by natural attrition over the

next two years without compulsory redundancies or retirements and they also deliver change without

station closures and without any reduction in the number of frontline fire appliances serving the county.”

A spokesman for Essex Fire Brigades Union said: “We don’t know the full details yet about how these changes will affect the fire service in Essex and we will need to look at the proposals a lot more closely, but we will be making sure that our members don’t have the wool pulled over their eyes.

“I think it’s important that the public are made aware that changing from whole-time to retained crews will mean a delayed service because the firefighters can’t react as fast. It’s a completely different crewing system.”

The proposals will go before Essex Fire Authority for approval in February.

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