County fire crew numbers fall despite no redundancies
Firefighter figures down by 100 amid ‘uncertainty’
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