Plans to axe 30 staff from fire service are ‘too hard and fast’

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BLAZE Firefighters at work
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PLANS to axe 30 staff jobs at Hampshire Fire and Rescue have been branded ‘too hard and fast’ by Fire Brigades Union officials.

The cuts – which include a fifth of the organisation’s control room operators – come as the fire service battles to save £9m in the next four years.

Seven control room operators face the axe by March next year out of 35 staff. Details of where the remaining 23 posts will be cut have not yet been revealed.

Nineteen new posts have been created in other areas including road safety training and education as part of the review.

The move follows a year-long staff review and comes on top of plans to cut 40 firefighter posts by 2013 to save cash.

The plans are now subject to a 90-day consultation.

However the Fire Brigades Union has warned there will be an immediate ballot for strike action if there are any compulsory redundancies.

Nigel McCullen, Hampshire Fire Brigades Union vice chairman, said: ‘We are working with the management to try and limit the effects. Hopefully there won’t be any compulsory redundancies. Nationally if any firefighter or Fire Brigades Union member is made compulsorily redundant there will be an immediate ballot for strike action.

‘We do realise as a Fire Brigades Union this is something management have not wanted to do, that it’s been forced upon them. We do work with them to try and limit the effects and have sympathy with their position.

‘But they have got full funding for the next two years so perhaps the cuts are coming a bit too hard and fast at the moment.’

The FBU is also warning that control room staff cuts could affect call-out times.

Mr McCullen added: ‘A 20 per cent cut in control room staff will mean they are severely stretched. It will have an impact on the service they provide – they always do an excellent job.

‘The knock-on effect may mean we may not get to calls as quickly. We really are cut to the bone.’

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Officer John Bonney said: ‘We were aware of potential cuts on the horizon so we started our financial planning early and put a recruitment freeze in place over a year ago. As a result we will be able to minimise the number of redundancies through the vacancies and through the creation of some new posts to meet new demands.

‘Staff have been very much part of the process in coming up with the initial ideas and the content for the proposals. This is not something we are undertaking lightly; it is something that has a big personal impact on all my staff.’