£4m cuts to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service approved

Leading WEM Phil Phillips, from Fareham, waves to his wife, Lynne, in the crowd as HMS Liverpool returns home after seven months on duty

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CUTS to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service totalling £4.1m have been approved by the county’s fire authority.

The plan, which will see about 200 firefighter jobs axed as well as new technology, new ways of working and smaller vehicles brought in, was voted through at a meeting at the service’s headquarters in Eastleigh today.

Portsmouth’s Lib Dem leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson handed a petition containing more than 3,500 signatures objecting to the proposal

Gary Jackson, from the Fire Brigades Union, also spoke and said the union did not back the cuts, but they acknowledged they had to be brought because of a cut in government funding causing a £12m deficit.

He said the union was especially concerned as the smaller vehicles could be deployed with just two crew members.

An amendment put forward by Portchester East ward councillor calling on the service to revisit plans for Southsea, which will see its three trucks swapped for an enhanced vehicle, an intermediate vehicle and a first response vehicle, in particular changes to the way it crews its aerial ladder platform, was voted out.

The plans had been subject to a 12 week consultation, called Project Risk Review, which saw thousands of responses, plus well attended meetings held across the county.

The proposals, which looked at all 51 stations in Hampshire, were voted through after a three-hour meeting, with assurances from senior figures in the fire service that the recommendations would be constantly reviewed.

Dave Curry, chief fire officer, said: ‘The performance improvements you should hold me to account for.’

Cllr Keith Chapman, vice chairman of the fire authority, said: ‘This is really an exciting time for the fire service and I say we vote for it as it is now.’

Cllr Chris Carter, chairman, said: ‘We are one of the best fire services in the country and to that we must embrace new technology and make ourselves fit for purpose.’

The proposal was voted through by all councillors, except Cllr Smith.

The plans initially attracted ferocious criticism from people who were concerned at the drop in numbers, especially with the proposed lack of night-time cover in Gosport and Havant.

Last week, Dave Curry, chief fire officer, revealed scaled-back cuts, which gave a reprieve to Gosport and Havant, leaving them with day and night-time coverage.

Mr Curry said at the time he had ‘listened to the public’ and the plans would mean quicker response times and more efficient working, despite fewer firefighters.

He added: ‘We need to save substantial amounts of money, the same as any public service.’