Residents speak out against proposed changes to the fire service

Hampshire firefighters put out a pub blaze
Hampshire firefighters put out a pub blaze
The Highfield Campus at the University of Southampton, which is home to the George Thomas Building. Picture: Geograph

REGIONAL: University advertises chauffeur job days after announcing 75 redundancies

  • Proposals branded as ‘pathetic
  • Chief fire officer urges people to take part in consultation
  • Union fears for safety of firefighters and community
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CHANGES to the fire service that could see more than 200 posts cut have been branded as a ‘pathetic’ move by people whose homes were saved by firefighters.

Karen Hoggart, 52, a general assistant, called 999 after a blaze broke out in a block of flats in Rochford Road, Paulsgrove, earlier this year.

She said: ‘The fire service arrived within minutes and there were about 10 firefighters working incredibly fast to deal with it.

‘To cut the numbers is stupid and pathetic.

‘The fire service works well as it is and I’m not sure why they need to change it.’

The view is shared by Jack Grant, 22, who needed to call the fire service after a fire in his kitchen in White Hart Lane, Portchester.

He said: ‘The service is running fine, so why do they need to make changes?

‘It doesn’t sound good to cut numbers, but everywhere seems to be making cutbacks.’

It comes as dates of public consultations to discuss the proposed changes were released.

The Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority unanimously agreed last week that proposals under the Risk Review project – which looks at how all 51 stations across the county are staffed, the vehicles used and the numbers of callouts – can go forward for a three-month public consultation, which started yesterday.

A meeting is due to take place in Portsmouth on Wednesday, November 11, and another in Gosport on Wednesday, November 18.

Times and locations have not yet been given and a website about the proposals is not yet ready.

Chief officer Dave Curry said: ‘We want to deliver an effective service in accordance with the needs of its communities, ensuring we match our resources to levels of known risk.

‘In light of the changes in risk across Hampshire and potential financial challenges, it’s vital we remain relevant, become more efficient and provide the people of Hampshire with a first-class fire and rescue service.

‘I strongly encourage Hampshire residents to take part in this formal consultation process.’

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 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.

Mark Chapman, who represents the Cosham branch of the FBU, said: ‘We encourage the public to get fully involved in the consultation.

‘This risk review will dramatically change the response they will get when dialling 999.

‘Any changes should aim to provide safer firefighters and safer communities by enhancing the way it responds.

‘Reducing cover to two firefighters in a van that cannot effect a rescue seems a step in the wrong direction.’