28th Jul, 2017

Fire chiefs 'must ask public over plans to downgrade services'

Joshua Godfrey 14th Jul, 2017 Updated: 14th Jul, 2017

CALLS have been made for a public consultation to be held on proposals to ‘downgrade’ fire cover in Evesham amid claims fire chiefs are pressing ahead without one.

Steve Gould, Fire Brigade Union (FBU) secretary for Hereford and Worcester and Operational Crew Commander in Evesham, has called on Hereford and Worcester Fire Service (HWFS) to let residents have their say on changes to fire fighting in the town.

As the Observer has previously reported, HWFRS have put forward major proposals which will affect fire cover in a bid to save more than £800,000.

If the plans go ahead, Evesham’s Fire Station would be manned full time Monday to Friday from 8.40am until 6pm, with all over cover provided by on-call firefighters at weekends and in the evenings.

Speaking at an Evesham Town Council meeting on Monday, Mr Gould told councillors fire chiefs are pressing ahead with the plans without putting them out for public consultation because they don’t believe they are ‘downgrading’ fire cover.

Furious councillors, including Coun Frances Smith, said they need proof services are being changed to force the fire service to hold a public consultation.

“We as a council need to be very aware of the comment Steve has made that this proposal is going ahead without public consultation.

“We need proof of what services they are going to change. If we can get proof then you can force them to a consultation.”

In response, Mr Gould said: “They are hoping to come to an agreement with the crews at Evesham and then go out to public consultation after.

“Well that to me isn’t democracy. They need to consult the public so they can get their views across.

“The crews at Evesham are totally against these proposals anyway. They will not get any agreement with us.

“You have to consult with the public because we believe by having two retained appliances, rather than one whole time and one retained, the fire cover is changing.

“They don’t believe that because they’re saying there will still be two fire engines.”

Keith Chance, Area Commander for HWFS, said: “The proposed crewing changes mean that the personnel crewing the first appliance at Evesham at night will be working a different system to now, the speed and weight of response at night in these two towns will not change therefore, there is no downgrading of fire cover at night.

“The proposals mean that there would be a change to the speed of response for 40 minutes per day between 08:00hrs and 08:40hrs.

“HWFRS believes that this is an acceptable change to meet the objectives of the crewing proposals and to ride with 5 on Wholetime appliances across the Service.

“With this in mind, HWFRS will carry out the required, proportional consultation with the public in Malvern and Evesham when appropriate and when the proposals have been discussed with the Trade Unions.”