FBU warns against Isle of Wight changes

FBU warns against Isle of Wight changes

THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) reiterated its opposition to proposed changes that would see fewer firefighters on duty on the island.

AN OPEN letter from firefighters on the Isle of Wight was sent to councillors last month raising ‘serious concerns’ over the safety of planned changes. Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (IWFRS) firefighters sent a letter alongside the FBU to ‘all members of the Isle of Wight Council’, which pointed out the lack of consultation and ‘unnecessary haste’ to agree the planned changes.

Now, the FBU has warned against adopting the proposals, and urged the Isle of Wight’s council cabinet to reject the review, because it contains plans to ‘cut the number of firefighters in a crew from five to four as well as axing 15% of the island’s firefighting workforce’. The council’s scrutiny committee called for the review to be scrapped last week over safety concerns, though the final decision will be made at a cabinet meeting this week.

At the scrutiny meeting, the FBU stressed that ‘the safety of the public and fire crews was the paramount concern’, while Andy Bowers, deputy chief fire officer of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service stated that crewing would be based on a ‘minimum of five crew members’, even though the document ‘contained evidence of minimum crewing being reduced to four’.

Spence Cave, brigade secretary on the Isle of Wight, stated: ‘The scrutiny committee have decided on the evidence produced that they are not content with the plan. If the cabinet decide to go ahead with this then it will prove there is no democratic process within the Isle of Wight council. The Conservative cabinet can steam roll through any decision they like.

‘There have already been questions asked as to why this review didn’t go to a public consultation as there are fundamental changes to the existing integrated risk management plan. The council seem to think putting some FAQs on its website, and releasing the paper six and a half days before the scrutiny committee meeting is a way to measure the feeling of the Isle of Wight public and council tax payer.

‘The Isle of Wight Fire Service is at the cutting edge with its firefighting techniques, equipment and training. Cutting crews and firefighter numbers would hamper the use of some of these resources and the safety of firefighters. The Fire Brigades Union, the professional voice of firefighters on the Island and nationally, have the safety of the public and firefighters at the forefront of their opposition to this review”.