Council backtracks on proposed cuts to Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue

Controversial plans to downgrade Lincoln South fire station have been shelved by Lincolnshire County Council due to intense public pressure.

As previously reported, the proposals put forward by Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue would have meant that firefighters were only on the base during the day and on call within five minutes at night.

The changes would have seen response times rise by an estimated two minutes between 6.30pm and 7.30am.

However, new recommendations have suggested a revised proposal that maintains a 24 hour crewed fire station in Lincoln.

These recommendations have been developed with the Lincolnshire Fire Brigades Union, in response to more than 300 comments that the council received to the initial proposals.

Plans to reduce the number of rescue support unit vehicles in the county from two to one have also been scrapped.

From the original proposals, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue still intends to press ahead with charging businesses for more than four unwanted fire alarms in a 12-month period.

A joint pilot project between the fire service, EMAS, and LIVES, to improve ambulance provision in Lincolnshire would also be extended for another year, and an aerial ladder platform would be relocated to Boston.

Acting Chief Fire Officer Nick Borrill said: “We are very grateful to our staff, representative bodies and local residents for coming forward and sharing their views on the initial proposals as part of our consultation.

An alternative proposal was put forward by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) around the Lincoln South option which, over the past few weeks, we’ve worked together to develop to ensure it will allow us to meet our savings targets, whilst minimising the impact on service delivery.

Third u-turn this year

This is not the first time Lincolnshire County Council has performed a last-minute u-turn this year.

Thousands of street lights in the county are now remaining lit until midnight after county councillors reversed their decision to switch them off from 10pm.

Lincolnshire County Council put the u-turn down to the level of negative feedback, including an online petition signed by over 4,000 residents.

Similarly, an eleventh hour change to the authority’s budget for 2016-17 by council leader Martin Hill saw the Conservative-led group retain funding for subsidised buses, winter gritting and children’s centres for the next two years.

Original budget proposals would have seen the closure of 15 children’s centres, an end to funding for companies subsidising rural bus routes and a reduction in the gritting of Lincolnshire’s highways from 33% of the network 25%.

Councillor Nick Worth. Photo: Steve Smailes

Councillor Nick Worth. Photo: Steve Smailes

Nick Worth, executive councillor for Fire and Rescue and Cultural Services at Lincolnshire County Council, added: “We have listened and taken on board the strong views expressed in the consultation feedback and as a result are recommending changes to the original proposal.

“I am very pleased that by working closely with the Fire Brigades Union, we have found a sustainable and efficient solution going forward.

We are operating in challenging times and sadly we continue to experience a decreasing amount of funding from central government. This means that every public service we operate has had to re-evaluate and find efficiencies to deliver within a reduced budget.

“As a high priority service within the county council, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue has only seen a minimal reduction in its budget – whereas some services have been reduced significantly or stopped altogether.

“I’m confident that Nick and his team will be able to continue to deliver an efficient and effective service for the people of Lincolnshire.”

Councillor Karen Lee from City of Lincoln Council said: “This is great news for Lincoln. City of Lincoln Council has been publicly opposed to these proposals throughout, and we are delighted to hear that the county council has finally seen sense.

“We understand that in some circumstances cuts have to be made but not when it puts public lives at risk, so we hope that the people of Lincoln can now rest easy knowing they have fit-for-purpose fire service provisions in the city.”

The revised proposals will be considered by Lincolnshire County Council’s Community and Public Safety Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, July 26 ahead of a decision by the Executive on Tuesday, September 6.