Chop and change - Essex fire chiefs in a muddle over cuts

A surprise revelation that Essex fire chiefs have changed where cuts will actually take affect has been met with anger and some ridicule, says the Fire Brigades Union. The change seems to have been decided behind closed doors, without any public consultation and outside of the talks with the union aimed at resolving the industrial dispute.

Only 10 days ago fire crews at Southend and Leigh were told they would lose their specialist high reach and specialist rescue vehicles - and the firefighter jobs that go with them - as the vehicles were to be moved to Rayleigh Weir. Senior managers had claimed that the decision to move the resources to Rayleigh Weir had been thoroughly researched and best fitted the risks and emergency response needs for the County.

But yesterday, it was revealed that senior managers had changed their minds and decided that both vehicles would be located at Southend instead but with too few firefighters to crew them both, even if they are needed in a 999-emergency. Leigh will lose their specialist rescue vehicle and see their number of firefighters cut, giving rise to concerns in the town that old plans to close Leigh fire station are being dusted off once again. Exactly what emergency vehicles will be deployed at the new fire station at Rayleigh Weir remains up in the air.

At the same time, the fire authority are set to press ahead from 1st October with the first wave of cuts axing the number of firefighters serving at fire stations in Colchester, Leigh, Chelmsford, Harlow and then at Basildon or Grays leaving too few firefighters to crew all of the rest of the County’s specialist high-reach and rescue vehicles at these fire stations.

Industrial action consisting of an overtime ban and a refusal to perform other voluntary duties continues and has been solidly supported since it commenced on 26th August 2009.   

FBU General Secretary, Matt Wrack will be meeting local FBU Officials and activists on 23rd September to discuss the latest developments and their on-going industrial action opposing the frontline cuts and other imposed changes. Mr Wrack is available for interview.

Mick Rogers, Essex FBU said: “It’s little wonder that fire crews and fire officers across Essex have such little confidence in the senior management. The recent muddle on where to cut frontline services is frustrating enough for our fire crews but it must be even more alarming for the local communities most immediately affected.

“We’re getting used to senior managers failing to consult properly with us but what we’d really like to know is how many local communities and local politicians were consulted before deciding where and in what towns the final cuts will actually be implemented?”

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