Norfolk fire chief fears major cuts could put firefighter jobs at risk
11:24 22 October 2014
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Firefighter jobs and fire engines could be at risk if “substantial cuts” are forced on Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service in the years ahead, the county’s chief fire officer has warned.
And Nigel Williams has revealed the fire service has 13 firefighter vacancies and has not recruited a full-time firefighter for eight years.
He made the comments as Norfolk County Council’s communities committee considered how to make nearly £900,000 of savings from its budget, which includes spending on the fire service, over the next year.
The fire service is expected to make £95,000 of savings in 2015/16, as the county council wrestles with making a further £13m of savings.
But, with gloomy predictions that the council will have to make up to £200m more savings in the years beyond that, Mr Williams issued a stark warning to councillors.
He said: “If we have to reduce the budget by any substantial amount that will reduce the number of firefighters and fire engines we have.
“Our service has not recruited a full-time member of staff for eight years. We have 13 vacancies and, in ordinary circumstances, we would have recruited to those posts.
“But, looking at the pressures going forward, we had held back on recruiting anybody because we felt if there were any substantial savings coming our way, it would be foolhardy to fill those roles and then have to make the posts redundant.”
Mr Williams said the service was about to recruit to those posts, given the service had identified how to make the cuts needed next year.
But he warned longer-term cuts would harm the service. He said: “A fire engine can go out with four members of staff on it. However, there is good reason to try to maintain five as you can do more and maintain safety. Some fire and rescue services have gone down to four as the number they have on a fire engine and I have always resisted the temptation to do that.
“We have purchased fire engines with nine seats. It would be churlish to take it down to four and have half the seats empty.
“But it might be in the coming years we have to consider going down to four.”
Mr Williams said the council needed to “bite the bullet” and figure out a long-term plan for what the fire service would look like.
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