Reprieve for some as fire service changes revealed

Watch managers Tim Gray and Rob Jenks demonstrate the new high-pressure lance to be brought in as part of changes to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
Watch managers Tim Gray and Rob Jenks demonstrate the new high-pressure lance to be brought in as part of changes to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service

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FINAL proposals to remodel Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service – which include plans to cut about 200 firefighter jobs – have been revealed.

The ideas were put forward in a bid to save £12.2m over the next four years and they will go for final approval next week.

Chief Fire Officer Dave Curry

Chief Fire Officer Dave Curry

The changes, which include new equipment, technology and new ways of working as well as job cuts, were subject to a four-month consultation.

And yesterday, chief officer Dave Curry gave an overview of the final proposal at the fire service’s headquarters in Eastleigh.

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

But the proposals have now been altered at Gosport and Havant fire stations following the feedback, after fears were raised about the plan to cut staff numbers during the night.

Both stations will now keep 24-hour cover which they were due to lose, improving anticipated night response times by up to six minutes.

Mr Curry said: ‘One of the key things we 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 was proposals on six of our stations where we would have reduced our immediate and retained cover throughout the night hours.

‘Through the 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 changes had also been made to the plans for Andover, Winchester, Hightown and Rushmoor stations.

The move has been welcomed by Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage.

She said: ‘We wrote outlining our concerns about the proposals. I’m delighted that those issues have been addressed. It’s well documented that we have issues with the roads and getting here and that’s why it’s important we get coverage here on the peninsula.

‘We highlighted the fact that other areas have a similar population but not the geographical challenges we have and yet they had better coverage.

‘During the consultation they were demonstrating new equipment which is brilliant and will save lives but it is not a substitute for having an around-the-clock service.’

Plans to cut numbers and change vehicles at Cosham and Southsea fire stations will still go ahead as originally proposed pre-consultation.

Southsea’s crew is to drop 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.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem group leader, blamed the council for not doing enough.

He said: ‘Portsmouth is going to be hit with the heaviest cuts, yet the council chose not to get involved.’

But Portsmouth Tory environment and community boss Rob New hit back at the criticism. Cllr New said: ‘I have made my own private deputation to the fire authority. The Lib Dems brought a petition to the city council, and spent however long debating it, but it’s not for the council to decide what happens.’

He added: ‘It’s obviously regrettable for any person in the fire service to lose their jobs.’

Mr Curry said the changes would not put public safety at risk as the new first-response vehicles are quicker, more effective and more efficient. They also only require a minimum of two firefighters, although he said the fire service 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, including a high-pressure lance which enables firefighters to cool a room down from 600C to 60C in seconds, would make fighting fires safer, despite a drop in firefighter numbers.

He also said that a change in working and the introduction of localised shift patterns would help make the service more efficient, and bring about an overall reduction in response times.

The plans will go to the county’s fire authority for approval next Wednesday.

What’s happening where...

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.

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

What’s proposed where:

Bishop’s Waltham – change from one truck to an intermediate vehicle, reduction from 12 day and 12 night on-call firefighters to 10 day and 10 night. Response time will fall from 9mins 15secs to 8mins 29secs.

Cosham – change from two trucks to one enhanced vehicle and an intermediate vehicle, no reduction in firefighter numbers. Response time will fall from 5mins 40secs to 5mins 21secs.

Droxford – change from one truck to one first-response vehicle, reduction from 12 day and 12 night on-call firefighters to eight day and eight night. Response time will fall from 12mins 22secs to 10mins 14secs.

Emsworth – change from one truck to one first-response vehicle, reduction from 12 day and 12 night on-call firefighters to nine day and nine night. Response time will fall from 6mins 3secs to 5 mins 48 secs.

Fareham – change from two trucks to one enhanced vehicle and an intermediate vehicle, two on-call day and two on-call night posts will be lost. Response time will fall from 6mins 19secs to 6mins 15secs.

Gosport – change from two trucks to one enhanced vehicle and one first-response vehicle, two on-call day and two on-call night posts will be lost, as well as three immediate day and three immediate night posts. Response time will fall from 5mins 36secs to 4mins 45secs.

Havant – change from two trucks to one enhanced vehicle and one first-response vehicle, two on-call day and two on-call night posts will be lost, as well as three immediate day and three immediate night posts. Response time will fall from 5 mins 44secs to 5mins.

Hayling Island – change from two trucks to one enhanced vehicle and one first-response vehicle, six on-call day and six on-call night posts will be lost. Response time will fall from 7mins 4secs to 6 mins40 secs.

Horndean – change from one truck to one intermediate vehicle, one on-call day and one on-call night posts will be lost. Response time will fall from 8mins 29secs to 7mins 32secs.

Portchester - change from one truck to one first-response vehicle, two on-call day and two on-call night posts will be lost. Response time will fall from 5mins 24secs to 5mins 13secs.

Southsea – change from three trucks to one enhanced vehicle, one intermediate and one first-response vehicle, four day and four night posts will be lost. Response time will fall from 5mins 49secs to 5mins 6secs.

Waterlooville – change from two trucks to one enhanced vehicle and one first-response vehicle, six on-call day and six on-call night posts will be lost. Response time will fall from 7mins 52secs to 7mins 6 secs.

Wickham – change from one truck to one intermediate vehicle, one on-call day and one on-call night posts will be lost. Response time will fall from 7mins 26secs to 7mins 19secs.