Norfolk fire service cuts get green light

Controversial plans to cut fire cover in Norfolk were given the green light yesterday amid fresh fears that lives and historic buildings in the centre of Norwich could be put at risk.

Norfolk County Council approved the �1.5m cuts as part of a new safety plan aimed at boosting cover in rural areas and King's Lynn.

As part of the changes the number of fire engines in Norwich would be cut from five to four when the new Carrow Station in Trowse, near Norwich, opens following the closure of Bethel Street, with 24 jobs lost.

Across the county a further 12 jobs will be lost at six retained fire stations, Cromer, Dereham, Diss, Fakenham, Sandringham, and Wymondham. But moves to scrap the retained crew at Gorleston have been put on hold for 12 months, though councillors were unable to give assurances that the proposals will not be revisited in the future.

The monitoring of rules governing a maximum 15 minute response time for second crews at some incidents was also scrapped.

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Labour councillor Bert Bremner told county councillors that the plans were a 'Tory gamble', which would affect the safety of firefighters and the public, particularly in the Norwich area.

'At the big Zizzi's fire last month in the centre of Norwich there were at least six fire fighting appliances and 40 fire-fighters,' Mr Bremner said. 'Zizzi's was right next to the beautiful Ethelbert Gate, one of Norwich's treasured medieval buildings.

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'The first crew to get to the fire was the second Norwich pump, the one Tory Norfolk will cut. What is to replace this second fire engine?

'The Tory cuts will mean only five fire-fighters are on duty at North Earlham so no speedy arrival of the 'Aerial Ladder Platform' and far greater damage and far greater risk of fire spreading. The Ethelbert Gate would have been at risk.'

Harry Humphrey, cabinet member for fire and rescue, said: 'We have got reduced risk, and we have got action being taken with a new fire station at Carrow, which will result in Norwich being ringed by fire stations at Sprowston, Earlham and at Carrow.'

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