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Fire engine cuts are ‘playing with lives’
9:53am Friday 18th October 2013 in News
REDUCING the number of fire engines in Ledbury from two to one is “playing chess with people’s lives”, says a former firefighter.
That is the view of Peter Watts, who is also a Herefordshire councillor for Ledbury. Coun Watts said of Herefordshire and Worcestershire Fire and Rescue Service’s proposals: “Obviously, they don’t think much about the safety of the members of this community.” He urged members of the public to participate in the 12-week consultation period that will run until February.
Speaking at the town council meeting, he said: “If Ledbury were to lose an appliance, it certainly would not come back at a later date.
“The impact for Ledbury would be a delay in support from either Malvern or Ross-on-Wye.”
The fire service says halving the number of engines from two to one would reduce the service’s annual outgoings by more than £50,000 from 2014/15.
Should the plan go ahead it would see the loss of eight retained firefighters at the Bye Street station. It currently has 14 retained members.
Speaking after the meeting, Coun Watts (Conservative), a a full time firefighter in the Hereford and Worcester fire service for 12 years, said: “These cuts to the fire service across this the UK, are down to Central Government’s mantra of ‘austerity’ which, in my personal opinion, is now leaving the safety of communities at risk to a degree, especially the smaller communities like Ledbury.
“Herefordshire is a large rural county so with these proposed cuts there are bound to be greater degree of risk in excessive travel times to incidents.”
Coun Martin Eager said: “I’m sure many councillors are very concerned about the possible loss of a fire appliance, when this town is set to grow in size.”
A copy of the draft consultation document, the Community Risk Management Plan (CRMP), is in the town council offices in Church Lane.
The document can also be found on hwfire.org.uk.
The fire service says Ledbury has 169 callouts on average each year with three-quarters of those within its station area.
The proposal is one of three being considered by the fire service to save £4.7 million over the next three years.
Assistant chief fire officer John Hodges said: “The plan includes a comprehensive review of fire cover arrangements and the public should be completely reassured that any proposed changes within it have been thoroughly researched and evidenced.”
Herefordshire Council is due to meet today, Friday, to discuss the proposals.
The proposals being considered are: lRemove one fire engine from each of Hereford, Worcester and Redditch fire stations; l Remove one of the two on-call fire engines from each of Bromyard, Ledbury and Tenbury Wells; l Close Bewdley and Broadway stations and either close Kingsland and Whitchurch stations in Herefordshire or reduce cover in Leominster and Ross-on-Wye.
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