An online petition has been launched against proposed 'devastating' cuts to Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.
The petition, launched by Northumberland FBU on website change.org, is entitled Save your Fire Service in Northumberland. It is calling on Northumberland County Council to reverse its proposals and to instead 'fight for appropriate funding mechanisms from Central Government for the fire service that properly reflects the need of the communities and Service'.
The petition, signed by more than 680 people so far, states: 'We the undersigned are totally opposed to the proposals set out for public consultation by Northumberland County Council to implement further devastating cuts on Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service. These cuts follow on from over a decade of cuts and efficiency savings sustained and implemented by the Service in an attempt to meet the Government budgetary constraints and the austerity agenda'.
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service has to save £500,000 in 2016/17, on top of the £1.5million already cut over the past two years. Last month, the county council’s cabinet gave the go-ahead to begin a 12-week period of consultation on the proposals, running until Monday, February 15, 2016.
The areas being consulted on are:
• To close Haydon Bridge Community Fire Station with Allendale, Haltwhistle and Hexham continuing to cover the area.
• To remove the retained fire appliance from West Hartford Community Fire Station. Keep the two wholetime fire appliances at West Hartford Community Fire Station.
• To change the second fire appliance at Alnwick Community Fire Station to a smaller fire appliance.
• To change the fire appliances at Ponteland, Seahouses and Wooler to a smaller fire appliance.
• No change to retained fire appliances at Allendale, Alnwick (first fire appliance), Amble, Berwick, Belford, Bellingham, Haltwhistle, Hexham, Pegswood, Prudhoe and Rothbury. Holy Island appliance and garage remains unchanged.
• No change to wholetime (full time) at Pegswood and West Hartford or day staffing at Berwick and Hexham.
• Instigate new staffing policies to improve the response from the retained fire appliances across rural Northumberland, potentially improving response availability to 95 percent without the need to increase retained staffing.
• Increase collaboration with partner fire and rescue services and agencies.
• Continue to review staffing systems and management structures to determine whether further efficiencies can be realised without compromising service delivery standards.
• Remain committed to the recruitment of both wholetime and retained firefighters and would welcome views on how the recruitment processes can be further improved.
For more information about the consultation and to take part, click here.
Grave concerns have already been voiced about the proposals, but Northumberland’s Chief Fire Officer Alex Bennett has defended the proposed changes to the service, saying ‘we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater’.