SPECIAL REPORT: Cambridgeshire service to cut £4.2m Pledge to protect fire service’s frontline
FIRE chiefs have pledged frontline services in Cambridgeshire will not be affected by their proposed cuts, as long as savings do not have to exceed £4.2 million.
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service will apply next week to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority to approve cost-saving measures totalling £4.2 million in response to cuts to Government funding.
But the service is not confident that this will be enough because it is possible that the Government’s Spending Formula in December will see its funding cut by another £1.8 million.
As a result it is appealing to members to approve a host of other cuts in principle to meet that eventuality.
These extra cuts would affect frontline services and the picture looks grim with the latest Government indicators showing that £5 million savings would be needed.
Chris Strickland, deputy chief fire officer, said: “We are planning for the worst case scenario.
“The work we have done will secure the service and how it is delivered if the cuts remain at £4.2 million.
“Once it goes below that we will be forced into a position where we have cuts to our frontline service, but we will do that in a measured way that has the minimum impact on our communities.”
To make the £4.2 million saving, the service would implement a “five watch shift system”.
Agreed by the Fire Brigades Union on Wednesday, it would come at the loss of 25 whole time firefighters, although this would be done through natural wastage such as not filling vacant posts.
In addition, there would be a loss of 35 non-operational posts in areas like administration and catering, as well as five officers.
Mr Strickland stressed that under these proposals, residents would receive the same level of service in emergencies, even down to the number of firefighters on an appliance.
He said: “They won’t notice any difference in anything we have done to save £4.2 million.”
Cuts awaiting approval in principle beyond this would see the removal of two rescue vehicles, leaving one left in the county.
These are currently stationed at Cambridge, Huntingdon and Dogsthorpe but a decision as to which would go, would be subject to a further business review.
In addition, the service is applying for permission to remove an appliance from stations at St Ives, Ramsey and Soham and combine the stations at Swaffham and Burwell if further savings are needed.
A decision on whether to close the station at Thorney is recommended to be delayed until December and is not included among the first £5.5 million of savings proposed by the service.
Mr Strickland said the service was also considering a potential merger with Suffolk’s fire service to safeguard the front-line long-term.
Such a step, however, would form savings in the next Comprehensive Spending Review due in 2015.
cuts: Deputy chief fire officer Chris Strickland and services business change manager Nick Foster.