PLANS to lose more than 200 firefighters will stretch the service even further, a union chairman has warned.
The message comes from Nigel McCullen, chairman of the Hampshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU) as Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said jobs would go under a proposal to help the authority save money.
There would also be changes to the numbers and types of fire service vehicles but no fire stations would close.
It’s all well and good calling a fire engine you see everyday and enhanced vehicle, but we want to know what is enhanced about it – it needs to be better, stronger or faster.Nigel McCullen, chairman of the Hampshire Fire Brigades Union
One of the hardest-hit stations in the proposal would be Southsea, where Mr McCullen is based.
It would see its three fire engines be switched for one enhanced vehicle, one intermediate vehicle and one first response vehicle.
And 20 staff during the day and night would fall to 16, saving £578,736.
Fewer staff would be needed as the intermediate and first response vehicles are smaller.
In Gosport one proposal would see night response time increase from five minutes to nine minutes.
Mr McCullen said: ‘With different resources and a cut from 20 firefighters down to 16, this could stretch resources further.
‘It’s all well and good calling a fire engine you see every day an “enhanced vehicle”, but we want to know what is enhanced about it. We wouldn’t primarily be crewing the aerial ladder platform, which means we may go out to an emergency in a smaller vehicle, only to come back and get the ALP. And eventually we will also be doing medical responses.’
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.
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.
Neil Odin, deputy chief fire officer, said: ‘There will be no closure to fire stations and no compulsory redundancies.
‘Technology changes mean we would have a smaller vehicle that could make a hole in the wall of a burning room, and we would be able to pump water in straight away.
‘This would cool the room down from 600C to 60C, making it safer for the firefighters to enter and for potential people inside.’
As well as making savings, the service said it is also looking at different ways to make money.
Next week at a Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority meeting, the board will look at the options to see if they are acceptable. If so a three-month consultation, will start on September 14.