Furious reaction to fire cuts proposals

Fire Brigades Union chairman Andy Vingoe.

Fire Brigades Union chairman Andy Vingoe.

The chairman of the Suffolk branch of the Fire Brigades’ Union warned that his members would fight against the proposals to cut staff numbers.

The removal of one full-time fire appliance at Ipswich will lead to the loss of 20 jobs – but the county council is convinced that this can be managed through not replacing staff who leave or retire, and that there will be no need for redundancies.

However Andy Vingoe warned that changes would increase risks to people in Ipswich.

He said there were serious concerns about having to rely too heavily on on-call firefighters, especially because it was quite common for on-call vehicles to be out of action because there were not enough crew members to staff them.

He was concerned about the service’s ability to fight major fires in the town centre with only one appliance based there because it was often difficult to get through traffic from the Ipswich east station.

“And if you have to rely on on-call firefighters, even if they are about it can take up to 30 minutes to get their appliance mobilised. If you have someone trapped in building that is a long time to wait.”

He added: “These proposals are ridiculous and absurd. There are very serious safety concerns and we shall do all we can to oppose them.”

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Labour spokesman on safety at the county council is Peter Gardiner – who is also a former leader of Ipswich Council.

He felt it would be totally wrong to halve the number of fire appliances based in the town when the population was set to increase dramatically.

He said: “These are by far the most savage cuts we have ever seen in the Suffolk Fire Service and we will be doing all we can to fight the proposals.

“We’ve already seen the fire service reduced in Felixstowe and other towns, and each time the Conservatives say this will not affect the quality of the service.

“There is only so far you can go, this is definitely a step too far – and there is no guarantee they will stop here. Enough is enough – it is time to defend our fire service”.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the most important thing for the town was that the town was still adequately covered by the fire service – not how many appliances were available.

He said: “The fire authority needs to be confident that it is able to provide a service that is as good, if not better, than before. If it does that, then fine. If it is not good enough then they should look again.”

He pointed out that in Merseyside the fire service had reduced its staffing and number of appliances, but it had significantly improved its work on the ground.

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