Shropshire fire service asks public about cost cuts with graph and future strategy plan

THE FUTURE FOR FIRE AND RESCUE IN SHROPSHIRE
The people of Shropshire are being asked to give their views to help shape the future of a trimmed down Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service hit by £4m in budget cuts.
Senior fire officers are giving the public an opportunity to have their say on a major new cost cutting plan in the fight to “balance the books” after phased multi million pound cuts due to the Government’s austerity campaign.

The public has “a powerful voice” which led to the scrapping of a previous plan to close four rural fire stations, said Assistant Chief Fire Officer Andy Johnson.
“Our fire and rescue service is changing and we value the opinions of people living and working in the county to help shape the future of our service.
“Delivering more for less is an expectation for all public sector services and at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service we want to provide the excellent service that the public expects but for less money.”

He is calling for the public to fill in an online (www.shropshirefire.gov.uk)or paper questionnaire (available by calling fire HQ on 01743 260200) for their views on the possible merger of Shrewsbury’s fire control centre with other emergency services. This would save £300,000 but it could mean moving it out of the county into Herefordshire, Worcestershire, or Warwickshire.

There are fears of losing vital local knowledge in directing police, fire and ambulance to an emergency from a large control centre where 999 operatives do not know the area.
But with IT advances, it should be possible to continue to deliver an excellent service from a single merged control centre, said Mr Johnson.
“We are keen to hear if the people of Shropshire agree,” he said.
People are also being asked to comment on a detailed report outlining how the brigade uses future resources to deliver an effective fire and rescue service. The feedback will be used by Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority to compile its risk strategy.
Fire authority chairman Stuart West stressed that the Shropshire public is “safer than ever before” with a reduction in fires and emergencies over the past decade due to successful prevention campaigns from fire personnel which include targeting every home to have at least one smoke alarm.
But as well as budget cuts there were new challenges with an increasing older and vulnerable population, the terrorism threat, and an increase in flooding. Resources have to be prioritised to continue to provide a “first class” fire and rescue service, he said.
“We need to use the money available to target our resources in the areas of greatest risk to stop fires and other emergencies from occurring in the first place.

“We are proud of the achievements we have attained in past years and will endeavour to maintain this level of service. But with the current economic situation and the difficulties facing our communities, we accept this will present a constant challenge.”

Known over the years for being a “efficiency conscious” fire and rescue service, the Service must continue to save another £900,000 over the next six years on top of £3.2m already cut since 2010. Firefighter numbers are being cut through “natural wastage” with an extra £400,000 in savings due to be made if proposals for shift changes, which will further reduce numbers, are introduced. Support staff are also due to be cut.

Recognised as one of the best run brigades in the UK, the service has been vastly streamlined since 2005 including a recruitment and staff pay freeze in 2010, outsourcing services to reduce costs and borrowing reduced.
Over the past nine years, the fire service has reduced incidents, despite a population increase, from 5,607 incidents to 3,587. Deliberate house fires are down from 68 to 12; arson at business premises fell from 74 to 12; and deliberate bin and grass fires have reduced by more than 50 per cent from 1,039 to 419. Road crashes have also fallen from 376 to 257.

Receiving more than 5,000 calls a year to all incidents, firefighters dealt with a total of 226 accidental house fires and 137 business fires over the past 12 months. Specialist fire crews audited 1,603 businesses in its bid to reduce fires and there were 917 false alarm call outs to county firms. A total of 17 water rescues and 39 animal rescues were also carried out in 2013/14.

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