Fire chiefs’ boost for Gorleston crew

FIREFIGHTERS have greeted with delight news that fire chiefs have backed away from plans to axe the retained crew at Gorleston.

Norfolk Fire Service had planned to cut the 14 retainees as part of a plan to save �1.5m countywide and then to replace them with one of the two full-time crews and fire engines at Great Yarmouth fire station.

But on Tuesday, a fire service statement revealed the plans had been deferred to enable further evaluation to take place following a lengthy public consultation process.

The wide-ranging 12-week consultation included 13 county-wide meetings, with two public events at Yarmouth library and one in Gorleston, attended by 182 people. There were more than 70 meetings with staff and unions.

More than 300 formal responses were received and the feedback has helped shape a report due before the county council’s fire and rescue overview and scrutiny panel on Tuesday.

Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who has been fighting to keep the retained crew, said: “I am delighted it does seem they are now planning to keep the retained crew.

“It proves what I said that if we make the case in the right way then we will get the right decision and I think we made a very strong argument for keeping the retainees.”

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Alan Jaye, the Fire Brigade Union’s (FBU) Gorleston representative and a retained firefighter at the station, was also pleased about the decision.

He said: “We are very happy. We think it is the correct decision because obviously we need the appropriate resources in this area and four appliances is the right amount of cover so we are happy and we are fairly confident that the retainees will now be kept on.”

The controversial plans were first mooted in February after fire service research revealed the first fire engine attending incidents would get to the scene more quickly if the proposals were implemented, with the second engine taking slightly longer.

However, Gorleston firefighters warned while the first two engines would get to the scene quickly, if more engines were needed for a major incident these would have to be called from further afield because of the absence of the retainees.

The proposals are contained in the fire service’s draft safety plan 2011/14 and need to be ratified by the county council before implementation.