FBU calls for answers on cuts rumours

UNION bosses are demanding county fire chiefs "come clean" over speculation that cuts are to be made in Suffolk's fire service.Suffolk Fire Brigades Union leaders say the county's fire cover has already been reduced since the modernisation of the service last April and is now urging the public to help it fight against any further cuts.

UNION bosses are demanding county fire chiefs "come clean" over speculation that cuts are to be made in Suffolk's fire service.

Suffolk Fire Brigades Union leaders say the county's fire cover has already been reduced since the modernisation of the service last April and is now urging the public to help it fight against any further cuts.

As exclusively revealed by the EADT recently, firefighters fear major cutbacks are to be made as part the service's annual risk management plan which will be introduced in 2005.

It is feared up to 24 firefighters jobs will be axed across the county and three fire appliances, in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury will be taken away.


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It is also rumoured one of the county's two turntable ladders is to be manned by retained staff only, meaning it will only be available on a delayed turnout basis.

Vince Jell, chairman of the Suffolk Fire Brigade Union, is now urging the public to fight any proposed cuts.

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He said: "The speculation is still strong and is not going away and there is a lot of concern amongst our members. What the public do not realise is their fire cover was reduced as a result of the last plan.

"The number of fire appliances that attend automatic fire alarms has now been reduced to one across the county, and one of our turntable ladders is now being used for community safety work, meaning it is often not available for an immediate turn-out.

"We are all for modernisation, but that should not mean cuts and if the speculation is true that is obviously what modernisation means in Suffolk's case.

"We are a service, not a business and these risk plans should not be quantified on a financial basis."

Mr Jell added: "Once there is uncertainty there is only one way to deal with that, and that is for the management to come clean and announce the plan for next year.

"We have still had no discussions about the plans and no arrangements have been made for a meeting, we are in the dark.

"We urge the public to help us fight any proposed cuts to ensure Suffolk retains a fire cover the members of the community deserve."

The Suffolk FBU said it now plans to set up a number of public meetings throughout the county once the new plan has been announced.

Under the new modernisation rules independent fire authorities now have the power to set their own level of fire cover, which was previously set nationally. Fire authorities now have to draw up a new integrated risk plan every year.

Fire chiefs are currently drawing up the plans that are due to go before Suffolk County Council's executive committee in November. There will then be a three-month public consultation period.

County public protection portfolio holder Peter Monk previously said: "The Government requires us to review our pattern of fire cover against risks faced by our communities, Nothing has been decided yet that will be a matter for the fire authority in November."

Last night a county council spokesman said it would not comment on speculation, but said a meeting with union officials should be arranged in the near future.

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