Future of fire station is ‘cause for concern’

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EARLY proposals to reduce full-time firefighter cover at Buckingham Fire Station have been slammed by Buckingham Town Council.

Last week, Bucks and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue launched a 10-week consultation period for its Public Safety Plan 2012-2017, a draft five year blueprint for the future of the fire service.

Among the proposals being consulted on are a review of the crewing arrangements for day crewed fire stations, including Buckingham.

If agreed, the review will consider the feasibility and risks of reducing full-time firefighter cover and replacing it with more part-time on call cover.

At a meeting of Buckingham Town Council on Monday, councillors agreed to write to the fire service pointing out that a risk assessment of the fire service should have been carried out before consulting on the Public Safety Plan, that the number of calls Buckingham Fire Station was listed in the plan as having been called out to did not include calls to assist other fire authorities and that Buckingham was a growing town.

Speaking at the meeting, councillor Robin Stuchbury, said the authority’s Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP), which assesses local risk to life, should be looked at by the fire authority before the consultation on the Public Safety Plan was launched.

He added: “Buckingham has important historic buildings including Stowe and two secondary schools.

“The fire service is talking about changing shift patterns. Councillor David Rowlands said last week there would be no redundancies, which is true, but the service will be reducing the shifts.

“Retained crews can help during a fire, but they are not fully qualified. I am very concerned the public is being asked to consult on this. This is how they are going to predict how they are going to deliver our fire service going forward.”

Mayor Mike Smith said: “Retained crew through no fault of their own are not as qualified as full-time staff. Other stations nearest to us include Brackley, Towcester, Bicester, Bletchley and Great Holm and they are all more than 10 minutes away and many with retained crew.”

But Bucks County councillor David Rowlands, chairman of Bucks and Milton Keynes Fire Authority said the figures did include call outs to assist other fire services and a risk assessment would be carried out before a decision was made.

He said: “In the Public Safety Plan where it lists principles and assumptions, it says the proposals are subject to a full risk and impact assessment and data analysis using nationally recognised models. The authority will be doing a full risk assessment.

“There will be no reduction in the number of fire stations in the county and no one is going to be made redundant. Changes will be achieved through natural wastage. In other parts of the country, fire authorities are making closures. We will find more flexible and new ways of working.”

The plan was due to be discussed at a meeting of the Local Area Forum in Gawcott, yesterday, Thursday.