Yarmouth fire crews join protest

PUBLISHED: 09:15 13 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:03 30 June 2010

FIREFIGHTERS from Great Yarmouth were among over 100 fire service personnel from across Norfolk who took part in a protest outside County Hall in Norwich on Tuesday.

FIREFIGHTERS from Great Yarmouth were among over 100 fire service personnel from across Norfolk who took part in a protest outside County Hall in Norwich on Tuesday.

A 40-strong group of off-duty personnel from the Yarmouth borough, including retained and whole time crews, joined the demonstration against plans to restructure the fire service.

The proposals are outlined in the fire service Safety Plan and could lead to 42 posts being axed across the county as the service looks to save £1.5m. A meeting w

If the plans come to fruition, a whole time crew could be moved from Yarmouth fire station to Gorleston to replace 14 retained firefighters who would be axed in the cuts.

However, there are a number of hurdles to clear before the scheme comes into force as there are various consultations before the plans are discussed by the county council overview and scrutiny panel on September 7 and Cabinet on October 11.

Gorleston firefighters, including watch manager Dean Howes, have criticised the plans because while the first two fire engines could get to a major incident quickly, if a third and fourth engine was needed these would have to be called from further afield because there would no longer be retained cover in Gorleston.

However, last week Les Britzman, Norfolk Fire Service area manager, said having a full time crew in Gorleston would lead to slightly quicker response times for the first and second engines which was the benchmark by which the fire service was judged.

Kevin Game, the Fire Brigade Union's Yarmouth branch representative, said: “The protest was really good.”

The plans were discussed at a meeting between councillors and fire service officials.

Labour councillor Colleen Walker said the changes failed to take into account plans for hundreds of new homes in Gorleston.

“This report isn't factually correct, it's somewhat flawed and the information is misleading,” she said.

“These increases haven't been considered. Nobody has consulted me as a county councillor, and nobody has mentioned what happens if Norwich becomes a unitary authority - Norwich will be split and that's not been taken into account.”

Richard Elliott, chief fire officer, said: “Statistics can be baffling, I admit that, but what's really important in terms of emergency response is how quickly you can get to the scene with that first fire engine. If you are going to make an impact on that incident, that really makes a difference.

“We are going to have another fire station at King's Lynn, which will increase fire cover and the ability to make a first response, and in Gorleston you are going to get a quicker first response. You don't need statistics to be able to understand that in Norwich it's about getting the first response quickly where the greatest resource is.”

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