Fire chiefs approve plan to reduce night-time cover at Ashfield and Retford

Protesters gather outside Nottinghamshire fire & rescue service HQ. Jason Zadrozny, Samantha Deakin and Matt Relf.

Fire chiefs have rubber-stamped a controversial decision to cut night-time cover at Ashfield and Retford fire stations as part of a bid to cut costs.

The decision, taken at a meeting of Nottinghamshire Fire Authority today was greeted with cries of ‘Shame’ from furious protestors, who had earlier gathered outside the fire HQ near Arnold.

The decision was passed by 11 to one - with just Ashfield Independents leader Councillor Jason Zadrozny opposing the planned cuts.

The plan had been widely criticised for increasing response times - with full-time firefighters being replaced at night by retained staff, who will need to travel to the fire stations from their homes to answer emergencies.

It is expected that this will increase response times by around five minutes – which critics argue could cost lives.

Speaking before the meeting, Coun Zadozny said: “Our members are absolutely terrified that the five minutes that this would add onto journey times will mean the real difference between life and death for people in Selston and Sutton and places like that.

“It’s about where you balance the finances. But do you think that’s worth more deaths? We don’t.

“I am absolutely not going to support that rise when Ashfield residents are paying more for less. That is postcode politics.”

The fire authority also agreed to increase their portion of the council tax bill by 2.95 per cent for the next financial year.

Chief Fire Officer John Buckley said he had “not put forward the proposals lightly” but steps had to be taken to meet savings target, and the alternative would be redundancies and station closures.

Meanwhile Worksop Fire Station, which was also being considered for the controversial staffing cuts, is is in line for a multi-million pound revamp.

According to the service’s budget proposals, Worksop station, which is one of the service’s oldest, is in line for a £250,000 revamp – with a further £2,265,000 being allocated the following year.

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue said: ““It is accepted changing an appliance from wholetime to retained will lead to a slight increase in attendance times.

“However, this will only affect a small number of incidents, and will only impact one of the appliances attending.

“For context, at least two appliances are mobilised to property fires, and at least three are sent if there is a life risk.

“This type of 24/7 system, mixed crewing, has been used by fire and rescue services across the UK for many years and, in addition, half of the service’s appliances are already crewed by retained staff.

“There is no evidence to suggest response times or capability of crews is an issue in those areas.

“There is also a perception that appliances are located at stations waiting to be called out, and will only respond in their local area. This is not the case as control room procedures ensure the most appropriate and quickest appliance is mobilised, even if that means it is provided from another authority.”

More to follow . . .

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