Consultation begins over cuts at Suffolk fire stations

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Councillor Colin Spence at the fire station topping-out ceremony at Ransomes Europark, Ipswich
Image caption,
Councillor Colin Spence said he was doing his utmost to reduce the impact of the cuts

Felixstowe could lose its full-time firefighters under plans to cut the Suffolk fire service budget by £2.5m.

Conservative-run Suffolk County Council has begun a public consultation on the proposed changes to the brigade.

Felixstowe would lose 14 posts and become an on-call station, while 12 jobs attached to Ipswich's tallest ladder would also go.

Chief fire officer Andy Fry said: "We have been careful to assess the risks associated with each of the proposals."

The cuts to the public protection budget, which includes trading standards as well as the fire service, are part of the county's overall proposed cuts of £42.5m for 2011/12.

As well as Felixstowe becoming a wholly retained fire station, Haverhill would be crewed on weekdays but would move to retained (on-call) firefighters at the weekend resulting in the loss of four full-time posts.

Andy Vingoe, chairman of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Suffolk, has concerns over the loss of jobs.

"Along with the cuts we are facing redundancies and obviously people feel very strongly about that," he said.

'Sensible proposals'

"It was only about six years ago when the proposal to jump-crew the Bury St Edmunds turntable ladder was put to us and we saw industrial action then, so if that's a taster then I suppose we could expect industrial action."

Mr Fry said: "We think the proposals that we are consulting on are sensible and we very much hope the industrial relations environment will remain sensible as we work these proposals forward in what are unprecedented times.

"There is an opportunity to use firefighters, who won't be doing their current jobs, to help us with some of the other problems, in particular, this issue of cover at our on-call, part-time fire stations."

Colin Spence, Conservative councillor with responsibility for public protection, said: "I'm doing my utmost to ensure that we keep the impact of these reductions to a minimum, but we have to realise that some things have got to change."

Ipswich's Colchester Road fire station is moving to a new building at Ransomes Europark.

The station would keep its four-storey ladder, known as an aerial appliance, but it would no longer have a dedicated team of 12 firefighters.

Mr Fry said: "It's been used on 200 occasions over the past two years. On 23 occasions it's rescued people, but not on a single one of those occasions has it rescued anybody from a fire."

But Mr Vingoe said the FBU still had concerns.

"Our retained firefighters would struggle to take it out and train enough to keep their competencies up," he said.

The public consultation on the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service Integrated Risk Management Plan 2011-14 runs until 5 May.

BBC Suffolk's Any Suffolk Questions? programme looking at county council cuts is broadcast at 1800-1900 GMT on Wednesday, 16 February.

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