Fire union ready to challenge jobs cull proposals

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PLANS to cull the number of firefighters who turn out to emergency calls in Hull have resurfaced in the latest round of cuts.

According to the Fire Brigades Union, Humberside Fire and Rescue wants to reduce the number of crew members on fire engines from five to four.

The proposals were dropped after running into opposition three years ago but are among a range of options going out to consultation as part of plans to save £5m.

The FBU says no station closures are proposed, but options include removing some second engines, only crewing engines at certain hours and changing from full-time firefighters to retained staff at some stations – as happened at Goole several years ago.

Brigade secretary Richard Walker said they would oppose any cuts: “Year on year there is more money coming out of the budget. The expectation is that the next five years will be as bad as the last five.”

It comes after an independent report said fire services across the country could save £200m if operated more efficiently.

The report by Sir Ken Knight found despite deaths in fires at homes reaching an all time low and call-outs dropping 40 per cent, expenditure and numbers remained broadly the same.

He identified “inexplicable” differences between the 46 fire and rescue services, with some spending nearly twice as much as others.

In preparing the report, Sir Ken and his team visited West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, where several “best practice” efficiency measures were identified.

By 2020, managers propose closing 16 fire stations and opening eight others.

West Yorkshire’s deputy chief fire officer Steve Buckley yesterday welcomed the report but added it still did not go far enough to plug expected gaps – which, for West Yorkshire, he estimates to be £8m by 2018. He said: “The efficiencies we’re making and those referred to in the report still do not address the funding gap we anticipate with future Government cuts.”

In Humberside, about 150 frontline jobs have gone in the last six years.

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