Cuts will affect our “quality of service”, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue crews warn

FIREFIGHTERS warn that Government cutbacks could affect their “quality of service”.

Crews in Huntingdonshire fear stations could be downsized and fire prevention scaled back as axe-wielding ministers threaten to strip an already slimline service to the bone.

Even the issuing of free smoke detectors to homes is under threat after the Department for Communities and Local Government withdrew its funding. Unions believe further cuts might jeopardise frontline services.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service faces an anxious wait until October 20’s Comprehensive Spending Review to find out exactly what it will have to sacrifice, but Phillip Mcquillen, chairman of the Fire Brigades Union in Cambridgeshire, says that he and his colleagues are having to plan for the worst scenario.

“Cambridgeshire is down to the bone as it is,” Mr Mcquillen said. “If they start to make sizeable cuts to the budget, I don’t see what they could cut.”

The Fire Brigades Union chairman said crews must be “sympathetic to the fire authority and the fire service itself” about the cuts imposed from above by Chancellor George Osborne.

He said huge efficiency savings had already been made over the past 10 years but added: “I can’t see why the authority, the fire service and the union cannot just stand up and say no.

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“We are guessing what the cuts will be. However, if we are talking about the size the Government is proposing, it will become difficult to provide the same quality of service.”

He said there were “clearly options for downgrading stations” and that the fire service would have to find its own funds if it wanted to continue to fit free smoke alarms for properties.

“As with most organisations, 80 per cent of our budget is for people,” Mr Mcquillen said. “If we’re looking at the kind of cuts being bandied about by Government, it would have an affect on frontline services.”

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack is due to visit Huntingdon firefighters at the Montagu Club, in Hartford Road, on Monday, October 11 to discuss the cutbacks as part of a national tour.

But Mr Mcquillen assured people that union members would be prepared to sit down with the fire authority if swingeing reductions are made.

“We don’t want any cuts but we feel we should sit down with the fire authority. We feel it’s our public duty,” he said.

Chief Fire Officer Graham Stagg said: “At the moment we are not ruling anything in or out.

“We will involve staff and the community in deciding how we find these saving, and we will carefully consider the impact that different options will have on our service delivery.”