Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service launches consultation into start of £2 million savings plan

Cllr Les Caborn and Warwickshire chief fire officer Andy Hickmott at the launch of Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service's consultation into the first stage of its four-year �2.4million savings plan.
Cllr Les Caborn and Warwickshire chief fire officer Andy Hickmott at the launch of Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service's consultation into the first stage of its four-year �2.4million savings plan.

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service has today (Monday) launched a public consultation into the first stage of a four-year £2.4 million savings plan which will lead to a reduction of frontline staff.

Thirty full time firefighter posts and five control room officer posts are expected to be removed over two years under the proposed changes - with the reduction expected to come from ‘natural wastage’ as staff retire and are not replaced.

This will reduce the number of full time firefighters from 230 to 200, with none of the 114 retained firefighter posts being removed.

But chief fire officer Andy Hickmott has said that the required savings - which will start at £1.3 million over the next two years as the service’s annual budget is reduced from about £20 million to around £18 million by 2018 - will not compromise the effectiveness of the service and that the aim is to improve the way it operates.

He said: “It is important that we approach this consultation calmly. We have closely examined the types of incidents that happen in Warwickshire, how we can best respond to them and how we can position the service to give the best response.

“I am confident that the proposed changes will mean that by rethinking how we operate and introducing new ways of working that reflect peak demand we are better equipped to deal with life-threatening emergencies and make the people of Warwickshire safer.”

Data gathered by the service has shown that the main threats to life are road traffic collisions, rather than house fires.

It has shown that the peak times for incidents are between 10am and 10pm.

Among the proposed changes in the first wave of savings are improved initial response times.

These are currently set at ten minutes for urban areas and 20 for rural incidents.

The ten-minute response will become uniform across Warwickshire with the target being that 80 per cent of incidents should be attended within this time as opposed to the current 64 per cent standard.

Two new response locations from where fire crews can deploy to ‘high-risk areas’, will be added with one likely to be either at the police training college in Ryton-on-Dunsmore or Coventry Airport and the other at Jaguar Landrover with the latter two of which both already having firefighting facilities on site.

Different duty systems will also be introduced, with the aim of getting more full-time crews available during peak periods, and a retained duty systems crew will be established at Rugby.

Smoke alarm installations at homes will now be saved only for the most vulnerable people with non-frontline staff being used to carry out fittings.

And support for the Young Firefighters’ Association will be stopped in November with youth engagement being prioritised in specific areas.

Cllr Les Caborn (Con, Bishops Tachbrook), the Warwickshire County Councillor responsible for policy on community safety, said: “The consultation is an ideal point for us to examine the role of the Fire and Rescue Service and the role that it plays in keeping our communities safe.

“Demand has changed and the types of incidents that the service attends have changed.

“There is now an onus on swift attendance at road traffic collisions where there is a risk to life and these will be prioritised over small fires where there is no risk to life or to property.

“The changes are a result of ling and detailed scrutiny of data that shows what type of incidents we respond to, where they are most likely to happen and at what times.

“We are placing our resources to best respond to respond to these.”

The savings are part of Warwickshire County Council’s overall aim to save £92 million from its budget over the next four years.

No merger with Hereford and Worcester Fire Service, as is being considered, is imminent nor is moving Warwickshire’s fire service headquarters in Leamington to a different site and creating a training centre.

The consultation, which will include forums and roadshows, will last for 12 weeks, ending on June 20 and recommendations will be made by the chief fire officer at a fire authority meeting on September 25.

Cllr Caborn added: “We urge people to look at the consultation webpage and see for themselves what is happening.

“While we would not pretend that the changes to the service have not been driven in part by the need to make savings, we are confident they will also make Warwickshire safer for all residents, wherever they live in the county.”

For more information about the consultation {www.warwickshire.gov.uk/fireandrescue\click here}.