PEOPLE trapped in property fires, floods and road traffic collisions will have to wait far longer for firefighters to rescue them if cuts are given the go ahead, Gloucestershire Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned.
The union has called for politicians at Gloucestershire County Council to reject plans that would close Painswick fire station and cut all the full time firefighters based at Cirencester fire station. The union, who on Monday published its response to the public consultation over future fire service provision, says the proposals should be rejected to safeguard public safety.
Trevor French, local FBU rep in Gloucestershire, said: ‘The proposals would have a dangerous impact on the ability of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service to effectively serve the public. Our capacity to deal with large scale, protracted incidents, including fires and floods would be compromised.
‘Gloucestershire County Council seem to forget the lessons from the extensive flooding that battered our county in 2007. If these cuts go through and a similar tragedy hits our county again, we will be in a worse position to deal with the outcome. The public overwhelmingly reject these proposals to cut our fire and rescue service. It is time for politicians to rethink and reject these dangerous plans.’
In the FBU response, Tam McFarlane, South West FBU, says: ‘Only days after this package of cuts was announced, the public witnessed at first hand the massive fire at Baker’s Quay in Gloucester docks. This brought home the very real risk that large scale fires bring and was a timely reminder of the vital need for proper and full resilience throughout the Fire and Rescue Service.
‘The public also recognise that this was not an isolated incident. On our campaign days in local communities, members of the public brought up other large scale incidents such as the massive fire at Dowty factory in Staverton and, time and again, the devastating floods which caused so much damage and disruption to Gloucestershire in 2007 – an event that has been repeated in Somerset, Cumbria and elsewhere across the country.
‘During the 2007 floods, which were some of the worst the UK has seen, Gloucestershire fire crews worked around the clock and in the most difficult of circumstances to serve the public and their communities.
‘The commitment and heroism of our operational crews, who faced appaling conditions for weeks on end, has been widely and rightly recognised by politicians, colleagues and the public alike. Incidents such as these show why resilience, in the form of available frontline resources, is so vital to the Fire and Rescue Service. Resilience in the Fire and Rescue Service can only be properly developed through overall, county wide, risk management, development and planning – as opposed to the piecemeal “supply and demand” process that has been put forward in an apparent attempt to justify these cuts.
‘The “supply and demand” argument, which seems to equate less fires with less firefighters, is simplistic, misguided and dangerous. It would strip the Fire and Rescue Service of vital assets required for resilience at large scale, protracted incidents and would leave people in rural communities with less cover and greater risk.
‘The provision of proper and safe Fire Cover has to be based around risk, not supply and demand. Less calls does not mean that those people involved in a fire can wait longer. Fire behaviour remains unchanged and the increased response times which would result from the proposed cuts could prove catastrophic to Gloucestershire communities.
‘We are calling on Gloucestershire County Council to place public safety ahead of budget cuts.
‘It is also time to recognise the dangerous impact that these cuts would have on public and firefighter safety if they are voted through.’
The FBU response executive summary says:
‘1) The proposal to close Painswick Fire Station will increase response times to emergency incidents within Painswick and the surrounding area. This will result in increased fire growth and a longer wait for people trapped in property fires, road traffic collisions and other emergency incidents. This proposal, if implemented, will compromise the safety of the public and firefighters.
‘2) The proposal to close Painswick Fire Station will compromise emergency cover for periods within Stroud as fire crews from this station respond to calls normally covered by Painswick.
‘3) The proposal to remove wholetime fire cover from Cirencester Fire Station will increase response times to emergency incidents within Cirencester and the surrounding area. This will result in increased fire growth and a longer wait for people trapped in property fires, road traffic collisions and other emergency incidents. This proposal, if implemented, will compromise the safety of the public and firefighters.
‘4) There has been a failure to investigate thoroughly the feasibility of recruiting an effective second retained crew in Cirencester despite its importance to the impact on fire cover regarding the proposal.
‘5) The proposals to close Painswick Fire Station and downgrade Cirencester Fire Station will have a dangerous impact on the resilience of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service. It will compromise the ability of the Service to deal with large scale protracted incidents, including fires and floods, whilst also providing a level of ongoing local cover.
‘6) The consultation document glosses over the importance of resilience and gives too much weight to a crude and inappropriate “supply & demand” version of fire cover. This results in no proper value being given towards the necessity of resilience at times of large scale, protracted incidents.
‘7) The County Council appears to have forgotten the experiences and lessons from the huge floods that our County suffered in 2007 and is now putting forward proposals which would undermine our resilience and ability to deal with similar incidents.
‘8) The proposals to close Painswick Fire station and downgrade Cirencester Fire Station will compromise emergency cover in rural areas during periods of snow and bad weather where travel access can be limited for periods of time.
‘9) The public consultation documentation, including supporting documents, are full of jargon, lack proper alternative solutions, are overly one sided and, in areas, are misleading.
‘10) The campaigning activities of the FBU – who have engaged with the public on the streets of Gloucestershire – show overwhelming public opposition to these proposals.
‘11) The outcome of the FBU petition and FBU campaigning activities show that no politician can claim a mandate to put cuts ahead of emergency cover – it is our clear experience that the public do not support cuts to emergency cover.
‘12) The decision to suspend wholetime fire cover at Cirencester Fire Station, during the course of the public consultation, was unnecessary and has undermined the consultation process. It took no account of public opinion and has pre-empted a decision that is properly the remit of the County Council.
‘13) The decision to suspend wholetime fire cover at Cirencester Fire Station, during the course of the public consultation, has undermined agreed negotiating processes and damaged industrial relations within the Fire Service.
‘14) The County Council should enter into immediate negotiations with the FBU in order to return full-time fire cover at Cirencester subject to the outcome of the consultation and decision making process.
‘15) The proposals within the consultation are being put forward entirely as a result of the failure of politicians, at all levels, to finance our Fire and Rescue Service to a level where it can function as an effective and safe emergency service.
‘16) The FBU believes that cuts cost lives and ruin communities. We demand long term, strategic investment in Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service and a fairer, sustainable and protected funding formula that better reflects the contribution our Service makes to society within the County.
‘17) It is our assessment, as the professional voice of firefighters within Gloucestershire, that these proposals will compromise the safety of the public and of firefighters. They will compromise the ability of the service to deal with large scale, protracted incidents and undermine our resilience overall. The proposals are not supported by the public or by firefighters. We call on the County Council to reject these proposals.’