Fire sta­tions could shut as bosses fight to bal­ance the books

Rochdale Observer - - YOUR VIEWS READER’S PICTURE - Neal.keel­ @NealKeel­ingMEN

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

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