Saturday, 4 June 2011

Fire service could be hit by another £700,000 worth of cuts

A further £700,000 worth of cuts could be made to frontline fire services in Cambridgeshire.

They could come on top of the £4 million worth of savings already agreed and the £1.3 million worth of cuts to frontline services to be discussed in October.

The extra cuts could lead to Cambridge’s second fire engine being taken out of service at night and the merging of two Peterborough fire stations.

Fire Chiefs claim that while the fire service currently needs to save £4.2 million by 2015, the Cambridgeshire Fire Authority needs to plan to save £6 million to cover the cost of higher than predicted inflation and other financial risks.  

Opposition Liberal Democrat members of the authority oppose cuts to frontline emergency services and voted against them at the recent meeting.

Opposition Leader Nigel Bell said: “We are the cheapest fire service in the country per head of population and have suffered the maximum 9.5 per cent cut in government grant, but frontline emergency services must be protected.

“This is a matter of life and death. With inflation now running at over 4 per cent the fire authority must revisit its decision to keep its council tax rises at 2.5 per cent for the next four years. The cheapest fire  service in the country should at least keep its remaining service budget in line with inflation.” 

The current level of Council Tax charged by the fire authority is £57.87p per annum for a Band D property and the planned 2.5 per cent rise would be £1.45p per annum for a Band D property.

Cllr Bell said; “I have serious concerns about the £4 million in cuts imposed so far where they affect the front-line, particularly the withdrawal of the turntable ladders, as the Combined Aerial Rescue appliances which are to replace them seem to have reliability problems.  

“But the extra £2 million of cuts which will see the closure or downgrading of stations and the removal of fire appliances is unacceptable. We cannot put lives at risk by increasing emergency response times to keep council tax rises well below inflation.”