Fire union hits back at review of authorities

A Fire engine on an emergency call on Forton Road Gosport''Picture Paul Jacobs (041399-1)
A Fire engine on an emergency call on Forton Road Gosport''Picture Paul Jacobs (041399-1)

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THE Hampshire branch of the Fire Brigades Union has hit out at a controversial review of services.

Sir Ken Knight included in a government-commissioned report that it is not sensible to have 46 separate fire authorities.

He added that incidents were down 40 per cent in the last decade and tens of millions of pounds could be saved.

One suggestion is the use of more retained or ‘on-call’ firefighters.

But Nigel McCullen, chairman of Hampshire’s Fire Brigades Union, said resources were already stretched to the limit.

He said it was absolutely vital that the service keeps permanent firefighters and five staff manning each fire engine.

Mr McCullen said: ‘As a union we haven’t properly looked at it and discussed it, but there have been some comments that Ken has made which we don’t quite agree with.

‘It’s important we keep permanent firefighters. We are facing cuts all over the place.’

The report comes after Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service looks to make £7m of cuts over four years to balance the books.

The service says no plans are in place and any proposals drawn up would be subject to public consultation.

And crews are preparing to stand together amid suggestions that a fire engine could be removed from Southsea fire station.

Sir Ken, who recently retired as the government’s chief fire and rescue adviser, also said he found differences in the amount authorities were spending.

Mr McCullen said: ‘We have shed over 40 fire fighter posts in Hampshire alone.

‘For Sir Ken to come out and say that nationally the amount of fire fighter posts have gone down is absolutely rubbish.

‘There have been over 5,000 fire fighter jobs lost since these cuts began. If the cuts get any worse then we will end up seeing a reduction in front line staff and the amount of firefighters manning fire engines.

‘At one point the report suggests we are just sat around waiting for calls. That is disgraceful.’