Fire stations could shut as bosses fight to balance the books
FIRE stations across the region could close – and the number of engines reduced – as bosses struggle to balance the books, it is understood.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) must slash £10m, it is believed.
Chief fire officer Jim Wallace admitted that since 2015 the service ‘had not delivered its own efficiency plan’, which, in part, triggered Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to order a root and branch review of the bridgade.
Our sister paper the M.E.N. asked Mr Wallace and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority if the £10m figure was accurate – and whether stations and engines were at risk. Neither party denied the claims.
In July, it was revealed that some of Greater Manchester’s firefighters were working in vermininfested stations without proper shower or toilet facilities .
Fire chiefs said they had identified ‘really serious issues’ with the state of the brigade’s buildings.
Chadderton station was identified has having issues with vermin and inadequate facilities for women.
The service faces tough decisions in the coming months, insiders say.
A source told the M.E.N: “Savings of about £10m have to be made.
“Some of that can come from a reduction in non-operational staff – but that will not be enough. Stations and the number of pumps are also at risk.”
In December, plans to reduce the number of fire engines across the region were shelved for at least a year.
Almost three years ago, the fire authority agreed to cut 253 firefighter posts and bring in a contentious 12-hour shift pattern.
Some of the brigade’s 56 appliances have been taken off the road at various stations, including city centre areas, due to a shortage of staff.
Under plans, which were postponed last year, eight appliances would have been axed over four years. A risk management plan, which runs until 2020, sets out how firefighters, staff and resources will be distributed across the region.
It has been reviewed over this year and a detailed risk analysis carried out. The axing of the 253 posts in June 2016, due to the brigade having to make £14.8m worth of cuts over four years, means the region will have around 1,000 firefighters by 2019.
In 1996, there were 2,200. Mr Wallace added: “The programme for Change review of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service review is currently underway and no formal decisions have yet been made.
“As Chief Fire Officer, I have been clear this process must have all our colleagues at its heart.
“GMFRS staff are being included in the development of the proposals emerging from the review and will not just be consulted on the outcomes. Just in the last few months we’ve seen measures come forward that are doing exactly that, including family-friendly shift patterns, accelerated
recruitment and necessary investment in fire station facilities.
“Our Programme for Change review has uncovered significant issues across the service and we have had to grapple with the fact that GMFRS has been left in a challenging financial position for a number of years.”
Les Skarratts, executive council member of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in the north west, said: “The FBU is deeply disappointed at the prospect of further cuts to Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, particularly due to the recent and significant improvement in relations between the FBU and the employer who is now the mayor.”
●●Jim Wallace, Greater Manchester’s new County Fire Officer, said no formal decisions had yet been made