Future for fire service looks tough

Chief Fire Officer Dave Webb
Chief Fire Officer Dave Webb

A plan to replace crews of retained firefighters with full-time equivalents at Lutterworth fire station has been shelved.

It was one of a raft of moves put forward to Leicestershire Combined Fire Authority at a meeting last Wednesday.

It has to make £3.9m of cuts in the next three years and £7.5m by 2019 due to reduced central Government grants.

The county’s Chief Fire Officer Dave Webb held a live web broadcast afterwards outlining its proposals to balance the books. One of those is to postpone plans to introduce Day Crewing Plus at Lutterworth’s Gilmorton Road base.

This would have led to retained firefighters – those on-call while holding down other jobs – losing their jobs to full-time firefighters.

The system uses half the number of firefighters but doubles their shifts.

Shelving the scheme has gone down well with many as the system is controversial.

The FBU’s chairman Graham Vaux said last week that it is a “draconian system which means firefighters work double their usual hours”.

It is being axed locally as the service does not want to increase expenditure during austere times. It means retained crews will remain at Lutterworth for the foreseeable future. In an interview with the Mail on Monday, Chief Officer Webb said he still saw a future for retained crews “in the right locations”.

In other proposed cuts, all catering services are to be axed with the loss of 10 jobs, and the resilience crew at Billesdon is facing the chop.

But in a bold move which would cost £1m to implement, Chief Officer Webb wants to hold a countywide referendum to increase its portion of Council Tax by £5 per household in a bid to hold off from making cuts. It has never been attempted in the UK before.