Retained firefighter’s union criticise plans to cut back numbers of frontline staff

Firefighters tackle a blaze on a building site on St Marys Road in Portsmouth
Firefighters tackle a blaze on a building site on St Marys Road in Portsmouth
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Pictute: LPhot Ioan Roberts

Defence secretary refuses Treasury demands for military cuts

  • Union says cuts to firefighter numbers will affect response
  • Chairman believes there’s no hidden agenda and government cuts are to blame for the plans
  • Plan sees retained firefighters fall from 656 to 519
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THE union representing retained firefighters says it is worried that proposed cuts will affect the service.

Rikki Noble, a retained firefighter at Bishop’s Waltham is the chairman of the Hampshire branch of the Retained Firefighters Union.

It’s inarguable the Risk Review can only reduce the standard of protection that HFRS can offer

Rikki Noble, chairman of the Retained Firefighters Union

The union has responded to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Risk Review plan, which would see the number of full-time firefighters fall from 576 to 488 and retained crew drop to 519 from 656.

Over the past 18 months, the fire service has been working on a plan to cope with a funding shortfall of £12.2m over the next four years.

Plans have been formed to help the service save up to £5m with £3.5m of that coming from frontline savings.

A three-month public consultation has been launched and Mr Noble said that while he believes there is no secret agenda with the plans, he is concerned about them.

He said: ‘It’s inarguable the Risk Review can only reduce the standard of protection that HFRS can offer.

‘If you have a recognised level of cover which is reduced, albeit alongside promises of new technologies and planned improvement projects, the risk must increase.

‘However it’s not HFRS’s decision to reduce this cover, it’s not their “fault”.

‘It’s a political decision of the government to reduce the money each fire service throughout the country receives.

‘One of the main reasons given to support a budget cut is the reduction in calls. But this does not add up.

‘We are expected to provide a level of cover 24/7 to our community. It’s not supply and demand but placement and level of attack that is expected.

‘There can be many cheaper ways to run a fire service, but you cannot cut corners financially when you are dealing with people’s lives.’

The changes will see 
all 51 stations in the county stay open but some will see a traditional fire engine swapped with a smaller vehicle.

The Portsmouth meeting takes place on November 11, at the John Pounds Centre, Queen Street, Portsea.

The Gosport meeting takes place on November 18, at Thorngate Halls, Bury Road, both from 6.30pm to 9pm.