Union fears pledge to save Norfolk fire stations could mask cuts to crews

Pete Greeves, left, and Kev Game from Norfolk Fire Brigades Union pictured with a petition against s

Pete Greeves, left, and Kev Game from Norfolk Fire Brigades Union pictured with a petition against service cuts. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A pledge to save fire stations from the axe may act as a smokescreen to cuts to crews, a union fears.

The fire service is among the vital community services at risk of cuts as Norfolk County Council looks to save £111m over three years.

Potential cuts were revealed in the authority's Reimagining Norfolk strategy last year, prompting the EDP to launch a campaign to save fire stations.

Councillors last week voted to remove £845,000 worth of cuts from their recommendations, allowing at-risk fire stations at Heacham, Outwell and West Walton to remain by raising council tax.

But Kev Game, secretary of the Norfolk branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said he was concerned by some of the other options apparently still on the table.

Among them, he claims, is a proposal to downgrade crewing at King's Lynn North fire station and at Gorleston fire station.

These are currently manned round-the-clock, but could move to 12-hour daytime cover only - with some posts moved to Thetford, near the newly-dualled A11.

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Mr Game said this would mean both Yarmouth and Lynn lost a fire engine and four firefighters at night, resulting in slower responses to calls that required the attendance of more than one fire engine.

'We're hearing two stories at the moment,' he said. 'When you speak to some of the councillors you're told there will be no reduction in the frontline, but others say they're still looking at downgrading stations.

'We're just very concerned it might look good to the public when they could actually be cutting the crews at nighttime.'

He added it was important that people understood the potential impact of all options left on the table before a final decision was taken.

Jonathon Childs, a councillor who sits on the Communities Committee, said it was 'unacceptable' that the cuts looked set to go ahead.

A final decision will be made at full council on February 22.

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