Fifth of fire service controllers to go in battle to save £2.5m

UP to one fifth of the control room staff from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service are to be axed as it struggles to claw back £2.5m in savings by 2015.

It was announced yesterday the service is consulting with staff and unions on a planned reduction of just under 20 per cent of its 27-strong control room employees, filling 25 full-time positions.

It comes as part of a root and branch review of the control room, where it has been decided that staff reductions can be made, partly due to new technology and changes to the staffing arrangements but also because the fire service claims it no longer needs some of the extra staff it took on as part of a cancelled national project to provide regional control centres.

It is estimated the control room overhaul will save £400,000 a year, £200,00 of which comes from staff reductions.

Over the past year, the force has already cut 10 staff members through voluntary redundancies, and despite yesterday’s announcement, head of service development, Owen Hayward, said more job cuts were not ruled out.

“I suspect going forward we will continue to look at finding efficiency savings,” he said. “We have really got to make the control room’s finances as cost effective as we can.

“If we want to keep the control room as a local facility rather than outsourcing, it is the only way.”

The new arrangement will see three staff on duty at all times, whereas currently there are between three and five on duty.

Meanwhile, improved technology will significantly reduce maintenance and allow for a reduction in the incident support work of control room staff.

The service claims the new system will also improve the response times to emergencies through better caller location identification and instantly knowing where all fire engines are.

It added in a statement: “Other fire and rescue services are outsourcing this function but our view is that if we can make our control room as cost effective as it can be then we can justify continuation of a local fire and rescue control room to serve people in the City of York and North Yorkshire.

“Significant savings have already been made in support services, but these continue to be reviewed as does the senior management structure.

“However, where we can provide the same or better service to the public through different staffing arrangements whether in the control room or on fire stations we will seek to do this.”