Suffolk: Talks Over Plans To Merge Fire Services

21 July 2012, 06:00

Talks are being held over plans to merge Suffolk Fire and Rescue with Cambridgeshire.

It's as plans continue being put together to work out if Suffolk Fire Service can merge with Cambridgeshire to make savings as both face big funding cuts.

But the The Fire Brigades Union representing fire crews in both Cambridgeshire and Suffolk have urged extreme caution over proposals for a merger between the two fire and rescue services.

Whilst the proposals are in their very early stages the unions alarm bells are ringing at what any future merger would mean for the delivery of 999 services to the communities in the two counties.

Andy Vingoe FBU Suffolk Chair said:

"Whilst these proposals are in their earliest of stages we are surprised given the concerns we have raised this very week with ongoing problems with the newly combined control room. Rather than being cited as a good reason for further collaboration with Cambridgeshire, we feel the combined control room experiment should be cited as a reason for extreme caution at this stage. Suffolk fire crews continue to raise concerns about problems responding to 999 emergencies in Suffolk since the introduction of the new combined control room. We have called for these problems to be rectified as an urgent priority by senior managers in Suffolkbut we remain wholly unsure what progress is actually being made. There seems to be some sense of denial.”

Adrian Clarke FBU Regional Secretary said:

"We expect these proposals to be subject to very rigorous consultation, including extensive public consultation, because after all it is the public who pay for our essential 999 service and it is the public whose lives can depend on it in an emergency. Experimenting with the fire service is playing with peoples’ lives. To say that because of potential future cuts from government funding the "sensible" and "natural" choice is to look to merge with another fire and rescue service is putting the cart before the horse. An essential emergency service needs to be given the necessary funding to maintain the critical life-saving resources based on the risks of emergencies in its area. It’s dangerous and weak of local managers and politicians to simply accept that cuts are inevitable and gamble on a merger to provide whatever level of service will fit the budget. With both counties and fire authorities being controlled by the Conservatives and the Government largely being controlled by the Conservatives, why do those responsible for providing these service just seem to agree with the cuts to essential services? If they don’t stand up for their local 999 service then maybe the public will have something to say about that when they are next up for election. There will be many questions in the following months not, least how this proposed combined fire service would be governed and by whom. The Government require the delivery of the fire service to their communities to be set by an Integrated Risk Management Plan taking account of the actual risks. But it seems in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk they are using an Integrated Resource Management Plan where cost is king and risk takes a secondary place.

"Councillor Fred Brown has stated that they "could draw out savings by combining support departments and reducing middle and senior manger numbers". What he is really talking about is putting good people out of a job who’ve done absolutely nothing wrong but that seems to be in line with Conservative thinking at the moment that even our essential 999 services are up for sale, privatisation or cutting as long as their friends in the city and the rich can get a cut in their taxes. Are we really "all in this together".