by adamboyden on 3 September, 2019
Everyone in Frome and surrounding villages relies on our local firefighters ‘on call’ at Frome Fire Station to respond quickly to emergencies using the two fire engines based there. The cuts proposed by Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s so-called “Safer Together” consultation in Option 5 will remove one of our two fire engines between 8am and 6pm [see ‘from’ and ‘to’ photos]. Every one of us needs to pay attention and object to these cuts. Similar cuts are proposed to fire stations in Wells, Martock, Yeovil and all across Devon and Somerset. Far from being ‘safer together’ the cuts will make us all less safe in an emergency and lives are at risk i
In the last few weeks I have listened to firefighters at the Frome public meeting and posed questions at the Fire Service open day in August. I have signed the union’s petition objecting to the cuts https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/don-t-cut-fire-services-in-devon-and-somerset and urge everyone else to.
But the Fire Service will only really recognise responses to their consultation so I urge everyone to respond with the following points.
Frome’s second engine is well used, not surplus to requirements. It is used around 78 times a year and 44% of the time in 2015-19. During July, Frome’s firefighters responded to 44 calls – 10 needed two fire engines or more. Frome is the second busiest ‘on call’ station in Devon and Somerset.
Emergency response times and risks to life will increase. When a second fire engine is needed (to attend a house fire or road accident, or if the first engine is already responding to an emergency), we would have to wait for one from Wiltshire, Shepton Mallet or elsewhere. The consultation admits the cuts will mean longer responses times, but fails to tell us how much longer, despite requests. The Fire Brigades Union have said that the Service’s relevant agreed emergency response times will not be met in the daytime if Frome’s second engine is removed. The consultation states this “does not necessarily mean more lives are lost”. But it could. The consultation’s community impact assessment states that risks to life will increase under option 5 for dwelling fires, due to increased response times. Is this acceptable?
Prevention work is vital, but this should not be at the expense of emergency responses. The consultation proposes that the cuts could release capacity for a ‘potential’ number of fire safety checks on homes and businesses to ‘mitigate impacts’, but these are not guaranteed and cannot prevent every fire or accident. We will still need a second fire engine in Frome in the daytime to respond to emergencies.
The cuts are not justified as the Fire Service has sufficient reserves. Despite having reserves of over £39 million, the Service is not proposing to use any to retain services. All the cuts options would save £5.7 million and £985,000 a year in total. The cuts could be prevented by using a small proportion of their reserves – so they must be asked to think again.
It would make a difference if hundreds and thousands of people objected to Option 5 and the loss of Frome’s second fire engine at http://www.dsfire.gov.uk/SaferTogether/ServiceDeliveryConsultation/. We only have until 22nd September. Frome Town Council and Mendip’s Cabinet are also raising concerns.
A big reason for all this is that since 2015 the Conservative Government has cut funding for our fire service by £7.5 million, or 25%. The Service’s financial plan assumes Government cuts will continue (another £2.4m over the next 3 years) and Council Tax will not be able to fill the funding gap. Together with increased cost pressures there is a ‘savings requirement’ of £8.4 million over the next 5 years. So people also need to write to your current MP and demand that he stands up for our community and opposes these cuts.
Please act now – lives depend on it.
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate, Somerton & Frome, and Mendip District Councillor for Frome College wardLeave a comment