Fears over fire service cuts plans for Warwickshire

Fareham's weater recue unit was called to an incident in Bewley
Fareham's weater recue unit was called to an incident in Bewley
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Firefighters have warned that public safety will be put at risk should the service face further cuts under Warwickshire County Council’s plans to make up a £67 million budget shortfall.

But Conservatives on the council said a rise in tax could prevent cuts to the service.

One of the options 
under consideration is to cut the fire service budget by 
£2.7 million.

This comes as the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned that Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service is already underfunded to the tune of £2.5 million and that if the cuts are given the go-ahead, 62 firefighters will face redundancy, five fire engines will be withdrawn from duty and the service could be forced to merge with a neighbour.

Pete Goulden, secretary of the FBU in the West Midlands, said: “Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service has suffered seven years of brutal cuts that have already compromised the service we deliver to the public. If councillors do vote to cut back the service, we will not be able to keep the public safe. Further cuts will decimate the service.

“We fear deeply for the people we won’t be able to save because of a lack of resources, and we fear for our firefighters who will have to deal with dangerous situations with fewer colleagues.

“It is a kick in the teeth for anyone who cares about the life-saving emergency service. There are going to be a lot of distressed, anxious firefighters who face this festive season with a lot of uncertainty.”

Plans put forward by the county council’s Conservative Group last week could mean that firefighters will keep their jobs and more social workers will be employed.

But this will come at a cost to the taxpayer and would also mean that 247 council employees will face redundancy over the next three years.

The group’s proposals set out how the authority will make the £67 million savings by 2020 while “investing in the county’s future”, “helping citizens to help themselves” and ensuring specialist services are “delivered in a cost effective way”.

The group, which leads the council, wants to increase the authority’s council tax demand by 1.99 per cent per annum for the next three years.

It has also pledged to retain only the minimum level of reserves.

This would help the council to scrap some of the savings options which had been put forward by its corporate board, which included axing firefighters’ jobs, reducing highways maintenance and making savings through reductions in the budgets for the county’s network of libraries and One Stop Shops.

The Conservatives have said they wants to invest in 40 additional children’s social workers plus additional support capacity to reduce caseloads and provide greater support for vulnerable children, invest in the education system for the most vulnerable learners, protect the elderly by investing in extra care housing and raising the levy for adult social care to fund additional demand, invest in protecting those who use the roads, generate additional capital to invest in the infrastructure of the county and create a modern and flexible workforce that has the capacity to deliver what is asked of it.