Over 50 people attended a public meeting in Lincoln addressing proposed cuts to the county’s fire service, with protesters criticising the county council for its lack of representatives.
As previously reported, a consultation launched by Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue on March 1 proposed altering the shift patterns at Lincoln South fire station, so that firefighters are only on the base during the day and on call within five minutes at night.
Demonstrators gathered on the evening of Monday, April 11 at Lincoln South Fire Station before a public consultation meeting, days after a Lincolnshire Fire Brigade Union rally on Lincoln High Street at the weekend.
Some 2,000 people have now signed the FBU’s petition against the plans.
Campaigners criticised Lincolnshire County Council’s Executive member responsible for fire and rescue services Councillor Peter Robinson for his absence at the meeting.
Instead, fire service managers delivered the presentation about cuts plans.
Nick Parker, spokesperson for Lincoln TUSC, said: “Like everyone else who showed up to the meeting to support our firefighters and the vital services they deliver, I was astonished that Tory Councillor Robinson didn’t even bother to turn up.
“The truth is, he knows that he can’t face the community over these dangerous and unpopular cuts.”
Nick Parker added: “Public pressure is growing against the cuts to our fire services, with two well-supported protests in a matter of days, and over 2,000 people having signed a petition launched by the FBU against these dangerous plans.
“Now it would seem that the Tory politician responsible for these cuts is in hiding.
“TUSC demands that the Tory-led county council listens to the growing clamour amongst residents by immediately withdrawing these dangerous proposals.
“The ongoing scandal of billions of pounds in widespread tax avoidance by the super-rich shows that there is an alternative to these dangerous cuts to our fire services.”
Service ‘remains a priority’
The changes are expected to save £1.67 million over three years in response to cuts to the council’s budget and would see a reduction of 13 firefighters.
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue has estimated that response times could rise by two minutes between 6.30pm and 7.30am, which has been met with concern by some firefighters and the Lincolnshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
Councillor Peter Robinson, Executive Member for Community Safety at Lincolnshire County Council, responded to comments about his absence from the meeting, stating the meeting was ‘primarily an opportunity for the public to meet professional firefighters to discuss how the challenge of the funding cuts can best be met’.
He said: “Like all of our services, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue will need to make a saving. We have, based on a significant analysis, decided the service will need to make a saving of £850,000, which is 4.3% of their original budget.
“The service is currently running a series of consultation events, like the one yesterday evening, to look at proposals for it to deliver a high quality service within these financial constraints. These events provide an excellent opportunity to meet professional firefighters to discuss how the challenge of the funding cuts can best be met.”
Nick Borrill, acting chief fire officer at Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, said before the meeting: “As part of Lincolnshire County Council, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue is not immune to the financial challenges faced by local government and the public sector in particular.
“Notwithstanding the savings already made by the council, it is expected the council will have to find a further £130m by 2018/19.
“Although fire and rescue remains a high priority service, the scale of the overall savings required are such that further reductions in the service’s budget will be necessary over the next three years.
“If agreed this would mean whole-time firefighters would be at the station during the day, but would provide on-call cover at night instead of being on the station 24/7.
“This system is currently being run effectively from seven out of our nine whole-time stations in Lincolnshire where the average mobilisation time is around 3 minutes and 25 seconds. It is set to be implemented at Lincoln North later this year.”