Fire union urges members of the public to voice concerns over proposals

Firefighters tackling a blaze
Firefighters tackling a blaze

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  • Fire Brigades Union believes changes will put lives at risk
  • Fire chief said he wants to change the view of the union
  • People being urged to take part in consultation
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LIVES could be put at risk if smaller fire vehicles are brought in and firefighter posts are lost in Hampshire.

Mark Chapman is the Fire Brigades Union representative for Cosham fire station, and is worried about plans unveiled by the service.

Although there has been a reduction in the number of fires, the severity of fires remain the same and we need the staff and equipment to cover this

Mark Chapman, Fire Brigades Union representative for Cosham fire station

He said: ‘For some of the proposals – for instance at Gosport and Havant – the changes would mean going to daytime cover only, and that would impact response times in those areas. That’s a terrifying statistic to read when we tell people every single second counts to save lives.

‘Although there has been a reduction in the number of fires, the severity remains the same and we need the staff and equipment to cover this.’

Over the past 18 months Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has been working on a plan to cope with a funding shortfall of £12.2m over the next four years. Project Risk Review has looked at how all 51 stations across the county are staffed, the vehicles used and the numbers of callouts.

With this in mind, plans have been drawn up to help the service save up to £5m with £3.5m of that coming from front-line savings – staff and equipment costs.

The number of full-time firefighters would fall from 576 to 488 and retained crew would drop to 519 from 656.

Cosham has two fire engines and a rescue support vehicle (RSV). Under the plans the rescue support vehicle would remain and the fire engines would be swapped for one enhanced vehicle and one intermediate vehicle.

Mr Chapman added: ‘Intermediate is seen as a downgrade with less equipment and potentially fewer firefighters than a normal fire engine.

‘The Risk Review and firefighters highlighted the Cosham site required an enhanced vehicle. But this cannot be guaranteed as if the RSV is called out of the area, then the enhanced unit would need to accompany it.

‘This means Cosham would be left with only a smaller vehicle compared to what it has now. We really urge people to look at the proposals and make sure their opinions are voiced.’

The plans will go forward to the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority next Wednesday and if approved a three-month public consultation will begin.

Top fire officer wants to change the views of the union

A TOP officer at the fire service said he does not think the proposal to update the way it works is a mask for cuts.

Neil Odin, deputy chief fire officer, said: ‘I don’t blame them (the FBU) for that view, my job is to change that view because I don’t believe it’s true.

‘If I thought they were cuts then I would call them cuts.

‘I, as head of service delivery, am responsible for the service Portsmouth receives and I want my firefighters to be safe, the community to be safe, and cutting for the sake of sparing government blushes is not a game I’m in.’