Firefighter in helmet

Fire authority has 'failed in it's duty to safeguard the public'

Avon Fire Authority has been accused of prioritising a balanced budget over public safety as they axe over 50 firefighter posts.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said that the authority has failed to adequately plan for local fire risks in their Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP), which details how the service will operate up until 2020 and confirms the cut in frontline firefighter numbers.

The union says that the service would look 'very different' if the priority was purely about safeguarding the public.

The IRMP, which was voted through by the authority last Friday (10 February), will mean that the specialist aerial appliances that are used for rescues from high-rise buildings will no longer be guaranteed for mobilisation in the event of an emergency.

In addition, the heavy rescue special fire engine in Avonmouth that is used in serious road collisions will no longer have a dedicated round the clock crew. 

The fire authority, however, did back down on its plan to have just one fire engine at Yate fire station during the night - the station will now have two fire engines on call.

However, this u-turn was tempered by the news that an additional two firefighter posts will be cut to pay for the changes. Now, 51 will go instead of the 49 that were scheduled for the chop.

Gary Spindler, chair of the FBU in Avon, said: “It is clear that these plans have been used to try and balance the books instead of looking at the best ways to minimise risks in order to keep the public safe. It is the polar opposite of how IRMPs are intended to be used.

"The IRMP would look very different without the planned budget cuts imposed by central government on Avon Fire and Rescue Service.

"These further cuts will mean a slower response to any incident in the Yate area during the night, something that will increase the risk to both the public and firefighters.

"The FBU in Avon will continue to fight against these decisions and urge the authority to reconsider these dangerous moves.”

The budget cut comes as fire minister Brandon Lewis announced an investigation into Avon Fire and Rescue Service over claims of bullying which could cost up to £1M.

Spindler added: “Taxpayers will be paying for a government instigated inspection - at the cost of frontline firefighters. We believe the public will see that as a disgraceful and immoral use of their money.”

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