A PROPOSAL to sell advertising space on fire engines could be adopted by Cambridgeshire Fire Authority – but only if the scheme proves a success elsewhere first.

A PROPOSAL to sell advertising space on fire engines could be adopted by Cambridgeshire Fire Authority - but only if the scheme proves a success elsewhere first.

The plans, which could see billboards erected at fire stations and branding carried on the side of fire engines, were given the green light by Essex Fire Authority last week.

If the Essex proposal proves profitable, fire appliances and stations across Cambridgeshire could follow suit with branding from high street shops or promotions for the latest cinema releases, to help meet the service's £4.3million funding gap over the next four years.

Cambridgeshire Fire Authority has said it will examine measures taken by other authorities, and would not rule out the possibility of selling advertising space.

"It is something we might consider in the future, but we will wait to see what happens in Essex first," said a 
spokesman.

"If they make a lot of money with it then it is something we will look at as well. It's not something we have ruled out."

However, the Fire Brigades Union has warned of its concern at "selling out" the profession.

Kevin Napier, FBU secretary for Cambridgeshire, said: "We are concerned that by going down the commercial route we would be selling our trade. We should maintain our dignity and our professionalism.

"Clearly the service needs to earn money and save money where it can, but I am encouraged that our service is waiting to see the outcome from Essex first. Otherwise we could be leaving ourselves open to humiliation."

Mr Napier added that carrying safety messages on the side of fire engines was common, but that anything that detracted from the fire service's core function would not be welcomed.

The advertising proposal, approved at the Essex Fire Authority meeting last week, outlines insurance firms, high street retail chains, mobile phone operators and film companies as potential advertisers, but said "strict ethical control" would be applied to advertisers.

Tobacco and alcohol advertising, at odds with the service's support of healthy living, would be not be considered.

Gordon Hunter, deputy chief fire officer for Essex, defended the plans, saying: "We are an innovative fire service and as such instead of wringing our hands despairing at the cuts to our budget we are exploring innovative ways of raising revenue to maintain our high standard of service.

"The service will further explore the viability of the scheme before reporting our findings and the completed framework back to the Essex Fire Authority for final approval."