Final proposals revealed for fewer firefighters in Portsmouth

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FINAL proposals to remodel Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service - which includes cutting firefighter numbers - have been revealed.

The plans were subject to a four-month consultation and chief officer Dave Curry gave an overview of the final proposal at the fire service’s headquarters in Eastleigh today.

Thousands of people took part in the consultation, raising concerns about the impact the cutbacks would have on response times and public safety.

And concerns have now been raised that Portsmouth is being left with the ‘heaviest cuts in Hampshire’ as there no changes in the original proposals to slash jobs and reduce fire engine cover.

Southsea fire station’s crew is to go from 20 to 16 and its three fire engines be replaced with an enhanced vehicle, intermediate vehicle and a first response vehicle. Cosham will see one of its two fire engines swapped for a smaller vehicle.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem group leader, said: ‘My understanding is the fire service has altered its plans in six different stations around the county, where councils and councillors have lobbied against the cuts.

‘What’s interesting to me is, there is no proposal to change the cuts in Portsmouth.

‘Portsmouth is going to be hit with the heaviest cuts, yet Portsmouth City Council chose not to get involved.

‘That’s a real abdication from the council, that it chose not to fight for Portsmouth.’

Although Mr Curry said that changes to the original proposals would be coming in at Gosport and Havant fire stations.

He said: ‘One of the key things we have learned during the consultation is that we should have the same level of response, in vehicles and firefighters, 24/7 across all stations.

‘A key concern that we heard through the consultation from the public and our staff was proposals on six of our stations where we would have reduced our immediate and retained cover throughout the night hours.

‘Though the very positive contributions of our staff in particular at those stations, we are now able to provide cover throughout the night at those stations.’

He said that these changes applied to Gosport and Havant fire stations, as well as Andover, Winchester, Hightown and Rushmoor.

Around £12.2m needs to be saved by the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service over the next four years - including the loss of around 200 firefighter posts.

Mr Curry said this would not put public safety at risk as the new first response vehicles, which are also to be implemented as part of the changes, required only a minimum of two firefighters, however he said that they would always plan to staff the vehicles with four firefighters.

He said: ‘Vehicles never put out a fire and they never cut anyone out of road traffic accident, people and equipment do that. The focus is about capability - people and equipment - not about the vehicles.’

He said that new technology and a change in working, including a high-pressure lance which enables firefighters to cool a room down from 600 degrees to 60 degrees in seconds, would make fighting fires safer, despite a drop in firefighter numbers. The plans will now go to the county’s fire authority for final approval next Wednesday.