Fire chiefs put Manea and Thorney back into the programme of possible closures

CLOSING Manea and Thorney fire stations – together with two others in the county- is still a possibility, the fire service warned today.

Chris Strickland, deputy chief fire officer, said: “These are not decisions that we welcome having to propose; however we do need to be realistic.”

His comments came on the eve of a Cambridgeshire Fire Authority meeting that will be asked to weigh up the options of budget cuts between now and 2015.

Between 30 and 40 support staff are already leaving together with 25 full time fire fighters as part of cost cutting measures.

Mr Strickland and his Cambs Fire Service colleagues want to put contingency plans in motion should expected �4.2 million worth of cuts widen to �6 million. Neil Newberry, Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We can’t bury our heads in the sand; cuts this severe would have to result in fewer fire engines and a reduction in service to the public. This isn’t something we want to do, but we do have a duty to plan for this, so we can take action if we need to.”

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Although Government funding for Cambridgeshire won’t be known until November, the fire authority is being asked to approve a series of cuts that could possibly be implemented swiftly.

Mr Strickland has assessed the closure of Manea and Thorney fire stations as having a “tolerable impact” compared to more serious cuts which he says he would regard as having a “significant impact”.

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Shutting Manea would save the fire and rescue service �80,000 a year but Mr Strickland insists it is not part of the first phase �4.2 million cuts.

Mr Strickland said. “We remain one of the leanest fire services in the country. A �6 million budget cut would be a reduction of about 20 per cent of our overall budget.

“Clearly we can’t absorb this without some impact on our front line services and this needs to be understood by both fire authority members and members of the public.”

Huntingdonshire’s only 24-hour fire station could go in a worst case scenario. Instead of a full-time crew, cover at night would be provided by retained fire fighters, which would impact on response times.

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