Friday, 18 May 2012

Fire Cuts Hit £5M - With Fears Over Grant Reduction


Cllr Nigel Bell (LD,
Ely North and East)

Estimates of the potential cuts required to fire services across Cambridgeshire have been increased by £800,000 to a minimum of £5 million with fears this could go even higher if the government grant settlement for the service is low again this year.

The news has prompted the Tory-controlled Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority to revise its savings plans and led to reinforced opposition to front-line cuts from the county’s Liberal Democrats.

They are calling again for the fire authority to review its plans to limit Council Tax rises to 2.5 per cent over the next three years to reduce the impact on front-line services.

Nigel Bell Lib Dem leader on the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority said: “These deep cuts are a worrying prospect for our county and we must continue to lobby central government to ensure a fairer grant settlement this year to protect our front-line services.”

The Lib Dems plan to take their concerns to Bob Neill, Minister for Communities and Local Government urging him to ensure that the government grant is fairer to rural authorities.

And Cllr Bell welcomed Cambridge MP Julian Huppert’s move to arrange a meeting with Mr Neill, representatives of the fire authority and other county MPs to discuss the issue.

The fire authority has already agreed £3 million of support staff savings in the first phase of cuts.

It is also proposed that 25 full-time fire fighter posts go through changes to shift patterns and a recruitment freeze, but a further 24+ full time fire-fighters could be made redundant under the plans and 16 retained fire fighter posts lost.

Retained fire engines could go from St Ives, Ramsey and Soham and other possible savings on the table include the amalgamation of Swaffham and Burwell fire stations, the closure of Manea fire station and reducing Huntingdon from wholetime crew to daytime crew only.

But a second phase has been proposed to the spending cuts plan in the event of the government grant being even lower than expected and savings of over £5.5 million required.

This could include the closure of Thorney and Gamlingay retained stations and the loss of the second retained crew at Ely. There is also the possibility of Ely, St Neots and Wisbech becoming retained stations only.

Cambridge’s second crew could be downgraded to day crew only along with the downgrading of a Peterborough appliance.