08:00 Thursday 10 January 2013

60 fireman jobs cut but lay-offs dodged

Written byJOSHUA TAYLOR

THE fire service covering Burton has made 60 jobs cuts as part of its mission to reduce spending by £4 million.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service needs to cut £1 million a year between 2011-12 and 2014-15.

But chief executive Peter Dartford said the requirement for job cuts had been met by not replacing retiring members of staff, avoiding the need for redundancies.

“A big part of the savings we need to make is a reduction in the number of people we employ. We needed to lose 60 people,” he said. “There were 59 due to retire during the four-year period so we have managed it without the need for compulsory redundancies.

“The savings we are making will not compromise the safety of our communities or our firefighters.”

Mr Dartford said the money the fire service received from the Government would fall by £1.7 million, or 8.8 per cent, during 2013-14 and by £1.3 million, or 6.2 per cent, during 2014-15.

As well as cash from Whitehall, the service also takes a share of the council tax bill to top up its coffers. Mr Dartford said members of the county’s fire authority would meet on February 13 to vote on whether to freeze, cut or increase their share of the council tax precept.

Mr Dartford, during an interview with the Mail at Burton Fire Station, also revealed the service previously spent £500,000 a year on costs such as overtime payments and travel subsidies when firefighters were required to cover for one another away from their usual stations.

“This is a large amount of money and will make a significant contribution to the £4 million we need to save,” he said.

“The way we manage resources is changing. We are changing the number of people on duty at any one time but the number of fire engines available is not going to change.

“The plans we have in place with things like our management restructuring and the new crewing arrangements should deliver the savings we need to make.”

Mr Dartford said a strategic review of the fire service’s resources had also identified future savings – one of its two rescue tenders, which carry heavy-duty rescue equipment, will be mothballed and one of its three aerial latter platforms, which are used to spray water over fires from above, will be removed from everyday service and placed in storage for use during equipment shortages only.

Mr Dartford also spoke about the service’s efforts to improve public safety.

“In 1999, there were 270 people killed in fires in Staffordshire,” he said. “Last year there were just 27. This is a 90 per cent drop.

“People need to raise their vigilance, particularly during cold months when electric heaters and fires are more likely to be in, to prevent fires.

“Preventing fires is often about being aware of the risks.

“Anyone with elderly relatives they are concerned about should contact us as we are very proactive.

“Rather than just talking about the risks of fires, we go out to people’s homes to make sure they are as safe as possible.”

The service has carried out 250,000 home fire risk checks since 2001, during which officers attend properties, fit smoke alarms and offer safety tips.

“We are often the first agency across the threshold so the advice we offer can be vital,” Mr Dartford said.

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