CAMPAIGNERS fighting against cuts to the fire service in Worcestershire have reacted with dismay after it was revealed an amendment had been made to controversial plans to cut engines in the county – without public consultation.
Although plans which could see Worcester and Hereford lose one its 24-hour fire engines were due to be voted on by Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority in February, the scheme was deferred until June’s meeting after members agreed to move £485,000 from its £1.5 million surplus into its revenue budget.
But after the agenda papers for the meeting on Monday June 9 were released this week it emerged the proposal had been amended to make each of the engines on-call instead of removing them from service entirely.
Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union for Hereford and Worcester Steve Gould said he was “dismayed” the plans had been changed without any public consultation.
“The last time there was a 12-week consultation but that’s been completely bypassed this time,” he said.
“We’re looking at a material change to the plans and it’s still downgrading fire cover.
“Having an on-call fire engine is not the same as having one ready to go right away.”
He added the union was seeking legal advice on the proper course of action.
But leader of the Labour group on the authority Cllr Richard Udall – who played a key role in getting the decision deferred at February’s meeting – said there was no legal requirement to hold a consultation on the amendment.
“What was consulted on was the removal of the engines,” he said. “But the fact that it won’t be removed is better than the previous plans, so there’s no need to consult.”
The authority’s chairman Cllr Derek Prodger said he had passed the matter to the authority’s legal team and it would be inappropriate for him to comment.
Members of the authority will have three options to decide between as part of the organisation’s bid to save £4 million:
- Changing one of two full-time fire engines each from Worcester and Hereford to on-call as well as removing an on-call appliance from Redditch, but to defer this for three years. Also removing one on-call appliance each from Ledbury and Tenbury.
- As above, but implementing the changes in Worcester, Hereford and Redditch immediately and deferring the removals in Ledbury and Tenbury for five years.
- Changing one of two full-time fire engines each from Worcester and Hereford to on-call, removing on-call appliance from Redditch, Ledbury and Tenbury, but to defer the changes for two years.
The meeting – which is open to the public – will be held from 10.30am in the Council Chamber at Worcester’s County Hall.
The agenda can be viewed at www.hwfire.org.uk.