Dec 12 2013 by Sophie McCoid, Skelmersdale Advertiser
FIREFIGHTER numbers will be halved at Skelmersdale fire station under a new scheme due to come into effect in 2016.
The fire service has been looking into its emergency cover procedure and has come up with a number of proposals that affect Skelmersdale.
The recommendations on the emergency cover review put to the Combined Fire Authority by the Planning sub-committee were agreed on December 9.
Under the new system the number of firefighters at Skelmersdale would be halved from 28 to 14, which will save the force £400,000 a year.
No firefighters will lose their job however, as people will be redeployed to other stations around the county.
The service says there will not be a noticeable difference in the service crews are able to provide – adding that there will still be the same amount of firefighters at the station as there are currently because firefighters will work longer hours.
Under the new scheme firefighters would work a normal 8am-6pm shift and then be housed in hotel-style accommodation at the station to cover any evening calls that might arise.
The firefighters are able to bring their families to the station and can watch TV as they would on a normal evening but they are not allowed to leave the station at any time during the night.
The system is already in place at various stations across Lancashire where firefighters work for four days straight. Those that participate in the new system will see their salary increased by up to a third.
Lancashire’s chief fire officer Chris Kenny said: “The consultation was thorough and the final package of revisions to emergency cover to be implemented testifies to the fact that we have listened carefully to the feedback and responded to concerns raised where possible.
“It is important to remember the service is required to make unprecedented levels of savings and, although over half of these will be found elsewhere, it is inevitable there will be some reduction to front line services.”
“I am confident that the changes in emergency cover will deliver the savings necessary to ensure we remain within budget yet maximise the effectiveness of our emergency response capability.”
Steve Harman, Lancashire secretary of the Fire Brigade Union, thinks the plans will harm frontline services.
Mr Harman said: “We are extremely concerned at these cuts to the Lancashire service.
“We cannot sustain the level of service people require if these cuts continue, soon frontline services will be affected.
“Under these new proposals firefighters will be working in excess of 84-hour weeks which will test their resilience and strength.
“It’s unfair and unfortunate but the fire service has been left no choice but to make these cuts by the Government – the only solution is to reverse the cuts.
“The fire service is an ageing workforce, we have not recruited for many years and things need to change.”