PROPOSED cuts to fire and rescue cover in the county see stations shut, appliances lost, and back-up support for serious incidents stretched.
Brigadier Peter Jones CBE, a county representative on Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Authority says cuts could soon push emergency response out of market towns and parishes too far beyond target arrival times.
“We can probably cope with what’s coming, but, frankly, anything further takes us into high risk,” said Brig Jones.
Hereford & South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman said he wanted to be sure the county was not losing out to Worcestershire over the cuts.
“It's not just about the numbers, it's about having a strong core that gives resilience in a crisis,” he said.
The fire authority meets next Thursday (Oct 3) to debate cuts that help the service handle a budget shortfall rising to £4.7m within three years.
A draft Community Risk Management (CRM) compromises target response and back-up times in identifying stations at Hereford, Leominster, Ledbury, Ross-on-Wye, Bromyard, Kingsland and Whitchurch for cuts in cover. Under the plan Kingsland and Whitchurch stations could shut if appliances can’t be moved from either Leominster or Ross.
Should the Fire Authority approve the plan next Thursday it goes out to 12 weeks of consultation toward a final decision taken in February next year.
The service’s management, procurement and back-office structures had borne the brunt of savings options over the past three years. In analysing all risks across the two counties and mapped out the number of calls each station responded to over the past five years, CRM says there’s now nowhere to turn but the front-line.
To Herefordshire that means:
• Losing one of the two wholetime crewed fire appliances from Hereford station, and with it a whole-time crew.
• Losing one of the two on-call fire engines from each of Bromyard, Ledbury and Tenbury Wells fire stations.
• A choice between losing one of the two on-call fire engines from Leominster station or closing Kingsland station.
• A choice between losing one of the two on-call fire engines from Ross or closing Whitchurch fire station.
Statistics within the plan set out response issues each of the options would raise .
Take building fires and road traffic collisions (RTCs) as a benchmark, the analysis shows that Hereford’s first fire appliance would reach about one in 20 “life risk” incidents or about five fires in buildings and three road traffic collisions (RTCs) later than present. Where back-up support is needed, Hereford’s second appliance would reach nine out of 84 fires in buildings and two out of 37 RTCs slightly later each year.
Losing one of the appliances at Bromyard, Ledbury, and Tenbury Wells is seen as having “no impact” on how quickly fires in buildings and RTCs could be reached in these areas. Where back-up was needed, however, it would take longer than at present at no more than seven fires in buildings and seven RTCs in each station area each year.
In North Herefordshire, choosing either option means the service would arrive later at no more than one building fire and four RTCs a year in the Kingsland area than at present, if the Kingsland appliance was lost.
Losing one of the on-call appliances at Leominster, however, is seen as having “no more impact than at present”.
Of the two options, the plan states that there is more of an impact on back-up support in the Leominster area.
Losing one of the on-call appliances at Leominster would mean that a support appliance would arrive later to 10 of 17 fires in buildings and three of 17 RTCs each year than at present, while removing the fire engine at Kingsland has “no impact “ on providing back-up support in the Kingsland area.
In South Herefordshire, closing Whitchurch fire station is acknowledged as affecting attendance to RTCs, while losing one of the on-call appliances at Ross fire station would affect the provision of back up support.
Closing Whitchurch fire station would mean the service would arrive later at two fires in buildings than at present and to all eight RTCs currently reached within 10 minutes in the local area.
Back-up support when required would not be affected. Removing one of the on-call appliances at Ross fire station is pitched as having a “very slight” impact on how quickly incidents could be reached, being later at one building fire and no RTCs. However, it does affect back-up support; a second appliance would arrive later to eight fires in buildings and 8 RTCs in the Ross than at present.
Click here to read the Hereford Times opinion piece on the cuts.