County fire crew num­bers fall de­spite no re­dun­dan­cies

Fire­fighter fig­ures down by 100 amid ‘un­cer­tainty’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - JASMINE RAPSON jasmine.rapson@reach­plc.com Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

FIRE­FIGHTER num­bers across Bucks have re­duced by more than 100 over the past eight years - as “a large de­gree of un­cer­tainty” sur­rounds ser­vice fund­ing in the face of gov­ern­ment cuts.

How­ever, de­spite ris­ing fi­nan­cial pres­sures Bucks Fire and Res­cue has not made any fire­fight­ers re­dun­dant or re­duced fire engine num­bers and all sta­tions have re­mained open.

Since 2010 the num­ber of full-time fire­fight­ers has been re­duced by 24%, leav­ing the ser­vice with 263, com­pared with 348 eight years ago.

On-call num­bers have re­duced from 207 to 190 in the same time frame, how­ever the ser­vice is still “ac­tively re­cruit­ing” in this field and work­ing to im­prove di­ver­sity across the work­force.

Speak­ing at a meet­ing of Bucks County Coun­cil on Thurs­day Septem­ber 20, head of ser­vice de­liv­ery at Bucks Fire and Res­cue, Neil Bous­tred, said a bal­anced bud­get has been set for the ser­vice this year.

How­ever, na­tional pub­lic sec­tor pay rises agreed by the gov­ern­ment have not been in­cluded in the bud­get, so the ser­vice will be forced to dip into re­serves in the “highly likely” event wages in­crease.

The au­thor­ity’s por­tion of rev­enue sup­port grant from gov­ern­ment is also set to re­duce by 54%, although Mr Bous­tred added the ser­vice is “ex­tremely well-pre­pared” to cope with grow­ing bud­get pres­sures.

Ad­dress­ing the meet­ing, Mr Bous­tred said: “Con­sid­er­ing how our bud­get has re­stricted since 2010, we have been faced with two op­tions.

“That is do we take one fork in the road, which is to re­duce some of our sta­tion as­sets, per­haps clos­ing some sta­tions and op­er­at­ing in that field?

“Or do we look to be dif­fer­ent, and the ser­vice has made a very strong de­ci­sion, ac­tu­ally since 2010, so we are ex­tremely well pre­pared as this bud­get starts to get re­duced.”

He also as­sured coun­cil­lors sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment is still com­ing into the au­thor­ity, en­abling £4.3 mil­lion worth of fund­ing for 17 new fire pumps and wa­ter ten­ders, as well as driver train­ing ve­hi­cles.

The au­thor­ity is also work­ing to re­cruit a more di­verse range of staff by of­fer­ing flex­i­ble con­tracts, which would al­low fire­fight­ers to have more say over when they work.

Mr Bous­tred added: “There is un­der­stand­ably quite a drive po­lit­i­cally around di­ver­sity and mak­ing sure the fire and res­cue ser­vice re­ally re­flects the com­mu­ni­ties that we serve.

“If we just have one par­tic­u­lar em­ploy­ment op­tion, which may be two days, two nights, four days off, some­times that can be a re­stric­tion to peo­ple who wish to join the fire ser­vice to be an op­er­a­tional fire­fighter.”

Fire­fighter num­bers in Bucks have re­duced by 24% since 2010

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