Fire chiefs hits back at 'risk' claims

ESSEX's fire chief has hit out angrily at claims made by the FBU that cuts in frontline services have slowed 999 call-out times and put the public at “unnecessary risk”.

Roddy Ashworth

ESSEX's fire chief has hit out angrily at claims made by the FBU that cuts in frontline services have slowed 999 call-out times and put the public at “unnecessary risk”.

And chief fire officer David Johnson also rejected accusations that Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) bosses had instigated a “massive spin operation” to convince residents that rescue standards were not deteriorating.

Mr Johnson made his comments after Keith Flynn, the Essex Fire Brigade Union's acting secretary, alleged that the service had been the victim of “savage cuts”.


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Mr Flynn also claimed that ECFRS had changed the way it monitored the speed at which fires were reached by crews to hide the effect of recent operational changes at ECFRS, which were introduced in October.

The FBU began industrial action in August which, although it stops short of a strike, has led to an overtime ban and a refusal by members to “act up”.

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Mr Flynn said: “Recent comments and proposals suggest that our fire chiefs are trying to disguise the decline in our 999 attendance times by spinning the figures.”

He added: “The cuts in firefighters and fire stations have been savage and so it's little wonder 999 attendance times are suffering.

“We have tried to defend the frontline service by selecting action which will not make a dangerous situation even riskier.

“But we cannot sit back and watch fire chiefs continually cut the frontline 999 service and put at risk the lives of fire crews and members of the public.”

However Mr Johnson refuted Mr Flynn's claims and said the FBU had started a dispute which it now could not stop without the humiliation of having to publicly back down.

He said that rather than damaging the service, ECFRS had saved around �330,000 since the overtime ban was introduced.

“This is a classic case of the FBU shooting itself in the foot and its members in the head,” he said.

“The problem now is they can't get out of this dispute.

“If we had taken away fire engines from stations, I would understand.

“But we have made no changes to frontline firefighting at all.

“The only thing spinning is Keith Flynn's head.

“If the union cares so passionately about getting to fires as fast as possible, why have they been in a dispute for the last seven months that is deliberately aimed at slowing operations down?”

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