‘This is a battle we can win’: MP Steve Barclay hails campaign to save Manea Fire Station
NE CAMBS MP Steve Barclay has insisted that saving Manea Fire Station is “a battle we can win” after the fire authority deferred a decision on its closure until next year.
Mr Barclay hailed the rapid progress of the Go To Blazes campaign - launched by the Cambs Times just last month. The MP had called into question the estimated costs of the fire station and summoned fire chiefs to a meeting at the House of Commons.
Recruitment and training, which had been frozen, has now resumed and a decision on the station’s closure has been put back until May.
Visiting Manea Fire Station on Friday, Mr Barclay said: “We are really pleased with the progress. Everyone has come together; councillors, firefighters, the press and myself have worked together for a community issue.
“A lot of the time people feel powerless and they feel that when these consultations take place the decision has already been made. What we have done with this is show that the figures presented are not accurate - they are selective and misleading.
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“Costs have been overstated and utilisation has been kept artificially low from freezing recruitment and not allowing others to train.”
While training was frozen, only one firefighter at Manea was qualified to drive the appliance. The fire authority has revealed that Manea was “off the run” for 41 per cent of last year; not able to respond to calls through either lack of staff or skills.
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Mr Barclay, who has raised further questions over the fire service’s spending - particularly on backroom staff - refuted suggestions that his queries were a personal attack on Chief Fire Officer Graham Stagg.
“The perception is that Manea is an easy target,” said the MP. “But I’m very optimistic now we have created enough pressure and raised enough questions.
“If you’re spending �300,000 a year on your press office and this station costs �60,000 a year then that speaks for itself. They managed to have a fire engine in 1834 in this village, although I suspect that they didn’t have six press officers in 1834.
“This is not a personal attack. This is me doing my job and speaking up for the community.”
Firefighters gathered petition signatures at Manea Gala on Saturday, marking out a blank space where the village’s fire engine would normally have stood.
Mr Barclay added: “The intention is to use the time between now and a decision to ensure that all the data is available and accurate.
“When we have that full picture it will help the fire authority with their decision and I’m confident that they will be able to find the �60,000 required to keep Manea open from elsewhere in their budget.
“What’s positive is the way that the community has worked together. The fire service has now responded to that which is positive and actually I’m very upbeat about the decision.
“I do feel that this is a battle we can win. If I didn’t then I wouldn’t be raising false hopes.”