Norfolk fire chiefs say strikes will not put public at risk

Flashback to 2002, when firefighters at Bethel Street Fire Station in Norwich took part in industria

Flashback to 2002, when firefighters at Bethel Street Fire Station in Norwich took part in industrial action. - Credit: ECN - Archant

Fire chiefs and council leaders in Norfolk are stepping up contingency plans as the prospect of firefighters going on strike gets closer.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have voted in favour of industrial action because of a dispute over pensions and its national executive will meet tomorrow to discuss the next move.

But leaders at Norfolk County Council have stressed that, if the action does take the form of strikes, then contingency measures will be put in place.

Dan Roper, the county council's cabinet member for public protection, said: 'This is a national dispute and is no reflection at all on the management of the service in Norfolk or on the current or previous administration.

'Although it is acknowledged this is a legally constituted dispute, I very much regret, and would struggle to support, any action that causes any extra unnecessary risk to members of the public.

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'It is not known what form industrial action will take, but we do know the National Executive is meeting on Thursday and hopefully we will have a much clearer picture after that meeting.

'But work is well advanced to look at various contingency scenarios for if that action takes place, to ensure the residents of Norfolk are safe.'

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David Ashworth, area manager at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said contingency plans were being drawn up, but it was premature to discuss them in detail at this point.

But he reassured the public 999 calls would still be answered and fires responded to.

If there is a national firefighters strike, it would be the first since 2002.

In a ballot of FBU members in England, Scotland and Wales, 78pc voted in favour of industrial action.

The row has been sparked because, under government plans, firefighters in England will get their full pension at 60.

The union says many firefighters will not be able to maintain fitness standards into their late 50s, so could end up losing their jobs.

The union, which says it still wants to negotiate with the government, says firefighters who retire or are forced out of work at age 55 will lose significant amounts of their pension.

But the government says the existing arrangements must be changed as they are not affordable.

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