Suffolk: Union chiefs hit out at fire cuts plan

MAJOR cuts to Suffolk’s fire service will be ‘the most damaging and dangerous ever seen’, union chiefs have warned.

Suffolk Fire Brigades’ Union (SFBU), responding to a consultation over cuts to the fire service, said ‘money was being put before public safety’.

But Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said it faced ‘unprecedented times’ and that the risk to the public would be minimised.

The cost-cutting proposals, aimed at saving �1.5m, are outlined in SFRS’ Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP), which was published earlier this year. They include axing Felixstowe’s permanent fire crew and stopping all-day every day staffing of the Ipswich turntable ladder.

Andy Vingoe, chairman of SFBU, in a 8,000-word report criticising the cuts, said: “The IRMP details the most damaging and dangerous cuts to fire and rescue cover we have ever seen. The FBU are certain that money is coming before the safety of firefighters and the public.”

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Union bosses are proposing - instead of cutting firefighter numbers - to save money by sharing chief fire officers and other staff; implementing a recruitment freezes; and introducing flexible staffing arrangements.

Andy Message, SFBU’s acting brigade secretary, said: “We have consulted our members who are the uniformed professionals in various levels of the service.

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“And when our members are worried, the public should worry too. Our members do not only have professional fears: when we are off-duty we are residents like everyone else. We have partners, children, parents and our concerns are also for the safety of our families, friends and our communities.

“Our message to Suffolk County Council, from the professionals on the frontline is simple: stop and think again before someone pays the ultimate price.

“It’s as simple as money coming before public safety.”

“These are unprecedented times we find ourselves in,” said Phil Embury, SFRS’ assistant chief fire officer. “This year we have to save significant sums and we’re making changes we would not previously of had to consider.

“There will be a slight increase in risk in certain areas but we have been very careful that it is as minimal as possible.

“We feel the impact of these changes in Felixstowe, while there will be a delay in response during the daytime, will be manageable.

“The number of calls received is relatively small and it’s a manageable risk.”

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