A RAFT of proposals to save £5.5million will result in "fewer firefighters, fewer fire stations and fewer fire engines" it was claimed this morning (January 18).

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service is looking to buy more small fire engines, respond to less automatic fire alarms, cut the number of bosses and have some firefighter 'on call' rather than working 'wholetime'.

It claims the changes, along with others, will help address a shortfall in funding from the Government.

The proposals were backed by fire authority members at their meeting this morning and go out to public consultation over the next 12 weeks.

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 £5.5million 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 compulsory redundant."

Mr Howell said staff numbers would be reduced through "natural turnover", with support staff numbers going down 5% by not renewing fixed term contracts.

Trevor French, Devon and Somerset Fire Brigades Union secretary, said: "Rather than just accept these enormous cuts forced upon us by central government, the fire authority, along with Lee Howell, should tell the Coalition Government that this scale of cuts is unacceptable, risks destroying the fabric of this important service and ultimately puts lives at risk."

Bob Walker, FBU brigade chairman, said: "If the proposed cuts go through, there will be fewer firefighters, fewer fire stations and fewer fire engines.

"After the recent floods and fires firefighters have dealt with so profesionally, the cuts would be a real kick in the teeth for both the public and the service."