Meltonians are urged to have their say on fire service cost-cutting proposals

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One of Melton’s two fire engines could be replaced by a smaller tactical response vehicle (TRV) as part of the cost-cutting plans

As reported in last week’s Melton Times among the proposals is to replace one of Melton’s two fire engines with a smaller tactical response vehicle (TRV).

Other money saving proposals include the closure of two stations, Central and Kibworth, and removing fire engines from some of the county’s stations, with the potential for up to 88 jobs being lost - likely to affect predominantly retained firefighters.

A LFRS spokesman said: “The proposals will enable LFRS to modify its service provision while, at the same time, realise savings of £1.5m needed to offset reduced Government funding and provide a balanced budget up until 2020. The proposals will help bring LFRS into the 21st century and are in response to the diverse operational demands on the service and increased financial pressures.

“The proposals are safe, proportionate and affordable and the proposed changes will better match resources to community risk.”

But Gavin Lynch, chairman of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Leicestershire, said: “There’s no doubt cuts like these will have a huge impact on the safety of the public. Firefighters will take longer to get to emergencies and may not have all the equipment necessary to carry out a rescue. In an emergency, every minute counts. Lives will be lost if firefighters have to wait for a second or third fire engine to arrive with the correct equipment. These proposals are not fit for purpose.

“These fresh cuts come on the back of previous funding cuts made last April. It feels like our vital, life-saving public service has not only been cut to the bone, but sawed off without anaesthetic.”

He added: “The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Combined Fire Authority chairman Nick Rushton has somehow committed to a ‘guaranteed level of (fire) cover’ even though the most recent round of cuts could see Leicestershire’s cover cut by a third. To promise the same level of fire cover when you’re about to cut the service by a third is beyond disingenuous.

“One of the alternatives to the frontline cuts, that the FBU have suggested, is for the service to sell its £11m half-empty headquarters and move staff to the unused areas of office space at Central. This move would save fire engines from the axe and keep frontline services running.

“We understand the financial position the fire service finds itself in and we’re committed to working with them to find viable options that do not leave the public at risk.”

Steve Lunn, deputy chief fire and rescue officer, said: “The £11m headquarters site referred to by the FBU consists of not just the fire and rescue service headquarters, it also includes Birstall Fire Station. The headquarters part of the site is not half empty and did not cost £11m. Further, we’ve recently welcomed a number of staff from East Midlands Ambulance Service who have transferred to our site.

“There’s not enough office space at Central to accommodate all the staff who work at headquarters. I can’t comment on how the FBU have come to the judgement that disposing of headquarters will solve the financial challenges we face. They’ve not shared any financial information they may have with us but I can confirm the savings they refer to wouldn’t be sufficient.”

Have your say on the proposals by filling in an online questionnaire on the LFRS website at http://www.leicestershire-fire.gov.uk/irmp

A public engagement event will be held at Melton Fire Station, on Nottingham Road, on Friday, October 16 at 7.45pm.