Northamptonshire fire service said to be near ‘collapse’
The county’s firefighters are to consider striking amid reports of staff cuts.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) hosted a summit of members at Moulton Fire Station to ask firefighters in the county to ‘consider taking industrial action’, with up to 25 frontline staff rumoured to be cut by January 2018 in plans that ‘came to light’ at the end of April, reported Daventry Express. FBU representatives meanwhile were called to a ‘duty review’ to discuss ways the service could save £500,000 this financial year.
Their first proposal was to cut between 20 and 25 full-time roles, as well as reduce numbers on a crewed engine to four from five, but Ben Muddle, secretary of the FBU’s Northamptonshire branch, stated this ‘flies in the face of the way staff are trained – and national safety guidance’. He added that: ‘All of our training is geared towards having a crew of five. Now we are moving to a situation where that crew of five is almost impossible to achieve.
‘What we are going to see is breathing apparatus teams being deployed into hazardous areas - but without the correct level of control measures on too many occasions.’ He adds that smaller crews would then have to attend incidents ‘without a dedicated Breathing Apparatus Entry Control Officer (BAECO)’, who ‘effectively monitor the firefights sent into building to check whether they are breathing correctly, how much oxygen they have left – even whether they have become trapped’.
The government previously stated in 2009 that this role was ‘essential to the safe control and support of breathing apparatus operations’, while the Northamptonshire service saw 12 full-time firefighters cut at the beginning of April, as the council tried to cut £1.5m between now and 2020. The whole full-time crew of a Technical Rescue Vehicle were cut, who are usually sent out to major traffic collisions, while one control room for the county and Warwickshire aims to save £300,000.
This planned merger would in turn create ‘as many as nine job losses from each’, with Mr Muddle noting that the 20 to 25 cut jobs would cause the service to reach the ‘brink of collapse’. He stated: ‘We believe that the imposed crewing levels of four as a blanket planning assumption will put firefighters and the communities in some areas of Northamptonshire and surrounding counties at unnecessary additional risk.’
He sent a letter to Paul Blantern, chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council, but the council responded it was unable to comment due to the local elections, while Andre Gonzalez De Savage, the Conservative cabinet member ‘with responsibility for the fire and rescue service in Northamptonshire’, declined to comment ‘due to the ongoing nature of the review’.