DEVON and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service has announced a range of proposals to save £5.5 million following yesterday's (January 10) announcement of a reduction in their government grant.
The service's grant will be reduced by 10.3% in 2013, with a further 7.3% slashed in 2014 - meaning it will lose £3.4m in the next financial year and a further £2.1m the following year.
Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell said: “The grant reductions for our service were harsher than we would have liked. “This means that we will need to manage our service with approximately £5.5m less each year and won't be able to operate in the way in which we currently do.
“However, at this stage, we do not plan on closing fire stations, removing fire engines or making staff compulsorily redundant.”
Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority will discuss the range of cost-saving proposals at a meeting on January 18, when they will decide which, if any, should be agreed for public consultation. If agreed, the changes will be subject to a 12-week public consultation process.
Chief fire officer Howell added: “The changes we propose aim to strike the balance between making savings and maintaining public safety. “These are difficult times and difficult choices are needed. The status quo is simply not an option given the need to significantly reduce the budget.”
Among the cost-saving measures being considered is a reduction in support staff by at least 5% by not renewing some fixed term contracts It is hoped more than £1million can be saved through greater efficiencies in back office support functions by improving procurement and managing spending. The full list of operational proposals the authority will consider are:
Extend the roll out of light rescue pumps which was consulted on, and agreed, last year. These vehicles reduce cost and improve performance.
Implement changes in how the service responds to automatic fire alarms (98% of which are false alarms) so that only high risk buildings are responded to automatically. This was consulted on and received public support last year.
Mobilise one co-responder unit directly from home/work to medical emergencies, rather than a whole crew and fire engine from a station, thus improving attendance times, saving more lives and reducing costs.
Reduce the number of middle/senior managers. As a result of business changes, it is thought officer numbers can be reduced without compromising performance.
Invest more time and money in additional prevention activity in 2013. Analysis shows that for every £145,000 spent on targeted prevention activity, significant reductions are made in the likelihood of a fire deaths.
Change the crewing of three fire engines in Plymouth to ‘on call’ rather than whole time: • Plympton and Plymstock fire engines to become 'on call' • Camelshead keeps one fire engine crewed by wholetime firefighters but one pump is moved to Crownhill. • Crownhill receives the fire engine moved from Camelshead and will have two fire engines, one crewed by wholetime and one crewed by on call firefighters There will still be seven front line fire engines in Plymouth. Response times are largely unaffected and may be further improved by the introduction of additional light rescue pumps.
Crew the aerial appliance at Crownhill with ‘on call’ staff. No other aerial ladder platform is permanently crewed so this harmonises Plymouth with the arrangements elsewhere within the Service.
Cancel the pilot scheme at Yeovil fire station where an additional four firefighters are provided for non-operational activity (this standardises crewing so that Yeovil is crewed the same as other similar fire stations).
Change the crewing arrangements of the second fire appliances at Taunton from wholetime to ‘on call’. Many firefighters already operate as ‘on call’ firefighters on these stations. The same number of fire engines will remain available and will be crewed as and when needed and during busy times.
Change the crewing arrangements of the second fire appliances at Torquay from wholetime to ‘on call’. Many firefighters already operate as ‘on call’ firefighters on these stations. The same number of fire engines will remain available and will be crewed as and when needed and during busy times.
Change the crewing arrangements of the fire engine at Ilfracombe from day crewed (wholetime, day-time only) to ‘on call’.