England

West Midlands Fire Service trials £3.8m shift savings

Wednesbury community fire station Image copyright Google
Image caption Wednesbury community fire station is one of 11 taking part in the trials into shift changes

The number of firefighters could be cut in the West Midlands in a bid to save up to £3.8m.

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) has announced two trials to see how services could be protected with fewer staff.

WMFS said the public would see "no change to the service they receive" throughout the trials.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), warned it would mean fewer firefighters working more hours.

Steve Price-Hunt, acting brigade secretary of the FBU in the West Midlands, said the changes were ultimately expected to lead to 150 frontline cuts, taking the overall number of posts closed to some 400 over five years.

John Edwards, chair of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, said the trials would "produce the evidence we need to consider any permanent changes in staffing to deal with another deficit in our budget of £3.5 million that we face in 2016-17".

He said any long-term job cuts would be made through retirement and there would be no compulsory redundancies.

'Extremely challenging cuts'

The two trials approved by the fire service mean watches will be merged at some stations, while others will see the number of staff reduced on each watch.

In the first trial, firefighters are expected to "self-rota", rather than being confined to specific shifts.

The FBU said the shift changes could force the service to call in firefighters at late notice to ensure engines were staffed.

Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach said WMFS faced "extremely challenging cuts".

A report to the fire authority said £21m in grants had been lost since 2011.

WMFS currently employs 1,322 full-time firefighters, who work from 38 fire stations serving a population of 2.7 million people.

Community fire stations in trials

  • Aston
  • Highgate
  • Sutton Coldfield
  • Woodgate Valley
  • Bickenhill
  • Wednesbury
  • Coventry
  • Haden Cross in Cradley Heath
  • Tettenhall
  • Tipton
  • Wolverhampton

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