North Yorkshire’s frontline firefighters’ jobs at risk as consultation begins

NADV 1403181AM14 Fire on Albert Street. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1403181AM14)
NADV 1403181AM14 Fire on Albert Street. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1403181AM14)

More than 40 frontline staff at North Yorkshire fire stations will be cut under new proposals in the Fire Cover Review

North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service plans to cut 43 frontline staff at six stations, including Harrogate, Ripon, Northallerton and Tadcaster.

The authority claim the changes are necessary due to the number of incidents they attend reducing significantly since the last full cover review was undertaken in the 1990s.

Area Manager, Owen Hayward, said that the reduced resources reflect the reduction in risk but anticipated this would be achieved through natural leavers.

He said: “There have been 34 per cent fewer instances over the past five years and we need to match our resources to that.

“We think that there is an over-provision at the moment and that these proposals meet the risk to fire fighters.

“Yes, we do have a saving target but we are conducting the review in response to the reduction of risk over time and we have to reduce resources to meet that.”

However while Fire Brigades Union Brigade Chair, Simon Wall, admitted there had been an incident reduction, he stressed the size of the risk to firefighters has not changed in this time.

He said: “We can’t agree with the Chief Commander that our service is over-staffed. We’ve already had a 10 per cent reduction in our work force over the last 10 years.

“We are concerned about the impact these changes could have on the public’s safety and the knowledge that they expect a fully equipped fire service when they dial 99 or require community fire service help.

“We’ll have 43 going across the service from six affected stations. If you take five out of this station then that is still 10 per cent of our force. We could be looking at quite big reductions of fully trained and fully qualified firefighters.”

A public consultation over the plan, which would see the service save £1.5m from its annual £30m budget, was launched on Monday, July 2.

Proposals included replacing one standard shift fire engine with a tactical response vehicle in Harrogate. The standard day crewed fire engine would also be replaced in Ripon with either a tactical response vehicle or a mixed crewed fire engine.

However, Mr Wall raised concern with the introduction of tactical response vehicles, classing it as a ‘big risk’.

He said: “They only carry two fire fighters and can only go to certain instances. They have limited capabilities and will stretch the already under pressure part-time fire fighters.

“We are being thrown in at the deep end by actually replacing fire engines with these vehicles. There’s no back up and there’s a major concern for our safety.”

Despite these concerns, Mr Hayward stressed the smaller vehicle would still have the equipment necessary to deal with a number of instances.

He said: “In other places they are using the vehicles as smaller units but we are looking at a greater role for them.

“We think they will be able to deal with many instances on their own, like road accidents, but will be part of a bigger picture to deal with instances like house fires.

“We certainly don’t see these proposals as an increase in risk at all. There are plenty of occasions, like the recent Macclesfield incident, where the first appliance arrives but can’t commit to an incident because it’s too dangerous.

“There may be fewer staff turning up initially to an incident but there’s no increased risk and no intention to commit crews when it would be too dangerous.”