GO TO BLAZES: Union letter calls for close scrutiny of Cambs Fire Service proposals

IN reply to your article concerning the proposals tabled by Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service Senior Management.

It is really disappointing that Mr Stagg is viewing the sourcing of factual information by stakeholders as being a direct personal attack on him.

We do not believe that there is anything unhealthy about an elected politician looking after the interests of his constituency; in fact the public should be welcoming such activity.

As a union representing our members who are serving Retained firefighters, we too are in the process of scrutinising the documents submitted to the Fire Authority last month and have already uncovered a number of concerning discrepancies that require further review, the alleged cost saving of closing Manea Fire Station for example.

We also fully dispute the claims by Mr Stagg that Cambs Fire & Rescue Service is the cheapest per head of population. Independent data that uses the entire cost of the service to the tax payer confirms that it is actually the 10th most expensive (out of a total of 45).

The figures used by the Chief Fire Officer are selective and we believe that communities should be provided with the correct information, not spin from officers who are funded by the taxpayers themselves.

The current proposals are without doubt an attack on our members, retained firefighters, who provide the most cost effective provision of emergency cover in the county.

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The fact that the service is proposing to close four retained fire stations, making about 50 firefighters redundant whilst at the same time looking for ways to redeploy an overprovision of more expensive wholetime personnel, is an insult to the public.

This is a value for money issue and the public rightly expect every pound of tax payers money to be spent efficiently, not used to prop up outdated practices for an ‘easy life’.

During the next few months we ask that all the elected members involved either directly through the Fire Authority or other elected councillors who represent areas who will be affected, to robustly scrutinise the proposals to ensure that the communities are being correct and unbiased information with which to make a judgement.

We fully understand that savings need to be made within the fire service but we believe that they can be made without closing fire stations or removing appliances from the frontline.

Residents of Cambridgeshire are not presently receiving value for money and it is in their interests to ask questions of their elected councillors, MPs and the fire service as to why there has not been a review of the entire service front and back rather than specifically focusing on selective fire stations that are seen as easy targets.

If, as Mr Stagg claims, that the high salaries claimed by his senior management team is the price to pay for success we ask why are so many frontline fire appliances off the run on a daily basis and why are retained fire stations understaffed?

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