FBU issues shake-up warning

THE Fire Brigades Union has warned that crews in west Suffolk may struggle to respond fully to two major emergencies at the same time if a proposed shake-up goes ahead.

THE Fire Brigades Union has warned that crews in west Suffolk may struggle to respond fully to two major emergencies at the same time if a proposed shake-up goes ahead.

Dozens of firefighters dealt with a raging pub blaze in Newmarket and a fatal road crash on the A14 at Elmswell within hours on Wednesday .

But the FBU said last night similar emergencies in quick succession would put an impossible drain on the fire service if plans by Suffolk County Council get the go-ahead.

It wants to halve the number of staff dedicated to manning the turntable ladder based at Bury St Edmunds, with 12 posts being lost.


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Matt Hassey, FBU chairman for Bury St Edmunds, said: "It was very busy in the Bury area on Wednesday morning and we only just had enough crew to man all the necessary equipment.

"Under the new proposals and if the same situation arose next year, there would be no way we could crew all the vehicles.

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"These emergencies just highlight the situation we are facing.

"People say we are just scaremongering but it is not. These changes could have serious implications on the appliances we need."

Mr Hassey also bemoaned Government-led plans to create one single regional control centre in East Anglia.

"The loss of county control rooms could mean we lose a vital amount of local knowledge," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has announced plans to create one regional centre to replace control rooms in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Under the plans, staffing rates would be dramatically slashed from 1,500 to 600 – described as "dangerously low" by FBU regional secretary Graham Noakes who has now enlisted the help of West Suffolk MP Richard Spring.

In a letter to Mr Spring, Mr Noakes, said: "These proposals will have enormous consequences on public safety and on the standard of the Fire Service provided as it would result in an increased risk to firefighters, the public and cause delays in response times to emergency incidents and won't save a single life."

But a spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said: "The programme will provide a more effective and efficient service that will protect the public better and save more lives.

"We would not proceed with a project that would place lives at risk neither would we expect the council tax payer to foot the bill.

"The new regional control centres are being designed to overcome shortcomings in the current system."

A county council spokesman has insisted the criteria for sending the turntable ladder out will not change if the plans are passed, but the crewing of the appliance would be organised differently. Twelve positions would be lost through "natural wastage".

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