FBU criticises ‘unsafe’ DWFRS cuts
THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) said that staff levels in the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) control room are ‘critically unsafe’.
BBC reported on the levels of staffing in the control room, with the FBU claiming that staffing ‘has been cut’ since the two services combined in April this year. As a result, there are four call handlers on duty compared to six previously, with FBU representative Kate Scott working in the control centre and reporting on the issues.
She commented: ‘Even when you’re marginally busier when you’re dealing with more than one call at a time it gets very, very busy. You end up with radio operators taking calls [...] supervisors unable to monitor calls so you don’t have that safety net of someone listening in and that’s extremely important to public safety. During August there were nine occasions when we could not reach the agreed level of four operators and there were three on duty and that is a safety critical issue.’
In addition, she added that ‘during busy times low staffing caused delays where an ambulance was not called as quickly as it could have been’, with the control room staff contacting the ambulance service ‘as part of their role’. DWFRS is part of the Networked Fire Control Partnership alongside Devon and Somerset and Hampshire fire and rescue services, with 13 fully qualified operators ‘at any one time’ across the three.
The FBU also pointed out that although calls can be transferred, this still causes ‘unacceptable delays’, while DWFRS responded by noting that staffing was at the ‘right level to provide and strong service to our communities’. Ian Jeary, area manager for DWFRS, stated: ‘We provide an excellent and safe service to our communities.
‘Before we had the network fire services partnership in place it could take over a minute for a call to be taken. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the service we are giving our public and that is something we are really proud of.’
In August, the FBU stated that DWFRS would lose ‘more than a quarter’ of its funding by 2020, with ‘frontline firefighting services […] at risk’ in what it calls the ‘latest round of government spending cuts’. It claimed that it would ‘lose more than a quarter of its funding’, with its budget cut by 27% by 2020, the ‘third largest cut in England’, with only two other services – Hereford and Worcester and Shropshire – expected to lose more, at around 28%.
DWFRS responded later that month, stating ‘there will be no cuts in the number of fire stations or fire engines’ and that ‘there has been no reduction in the number of fire stations or the number of fire engines since the new combined service came into being’, while ‘there are currently no plans for this to change’.