Protesters set to fight against cuts to fire station

Ashfield Fire Station.
Ashfield Fire Station.

Protesters are set to battle changes which could see Ashfield fire station in Kirkby lose ‘full-time’ evening firefighters.

Protesters are set to battle changes which could see Ashfield fire station in Kirkby lose ‘full-time’ evening firefighters.

The protest comes after it was revealed members of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Authority are being recommended to approve plans for alternative crewing at the station, which would mean night shifts are no longer covered by full-time firefighters.

The fire service has said this will make “necessary financial savings” after cost-cutting since 2010 saved the authority £13 million per year.

A formal decision will be made by the authority at a meeting on Friday, February 16.

The station is currently open 24 hours a day and has 26 firefighters.

One of the changes will be that firefighters are not based at the station overnight, but retained firefighters will have to travel in when alerted to an incident.

Fire chiefs have said there would be no reduction in cover at the station, although residents and councillors have raised fears response times would be increased by up to five minutes.

In a report to the authority, made up of councillors from Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council, members are recommended to ”approve the implementation of the mixed crewing model at both Ashfield and Retford fire stations” in a bid to save £1 million. It also states “no redundancies will emerge through these proposals”.

A protest has been organised by members of the Ashfield Independents political group to take place before of the meeting.

They plan to start at 9am outside Fire Brigade headquarters in Bestwood, before the meeting starts at 10.30am.

Councillor Jason Zadrozny, a member of the authority and leader of Ashfield Independents, opposes the plans.

He said: “We said we would do everything possible to oppose these plans and we are doing that. We collected 2,500 signatures that were ignored, so the next step is to ‘flatter’ the members of the authority with a Valentine’s Card. It’s a bit of fun with a deadly serious message. “

The card urges authority members to love the station and protect it.

Coun Zadrozny said: “The authority can choose not to implement recommendations from fire bosses. This will ensure Ashfield fire station, which serves 55,000 houses in Ashfield, much of Mansfield and Selston as well as the M1 and A38 remains fully staffed 24 hours a day.”

“I mean it when I say lives could be lost if they go ahead with this reckless proposal.”

‘Protect the public’ says MP

Gloria De Piero, Ashfield MP, said she does not believe the public will be safe without complete full-time cover. She said: “Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has lost about 25 per cent of its funding from central government since 2010.

“I know this makes it difficult to balance the books while maintaining its essential service.

“Government ministers should hang their heads in shame. However, the bottom line is the public needs protecting and I don’t think they will be as safe without 24/7 full-time crewing at Ashfield fire station.”

“I urge the Fire Authority to reject the proposal to have only on-call firefighters in Ashfield overnight and to find another way forward.”

MP De Piero has also asked for this statement to be read at the meeting on Friday, February 16.

Fire boss stands by possible changes

Chief fire officer John Buckley, of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue, said: “People are safer now in their homes than ever before, people shouldn’t be concerned for their safety with these changes.

“My advice is to be careful and have an escape plan – these basic things will keep you safer than a fire department can.

“Since 2010, there has been a 25 per cent reduction in funding.

“Alternative crewing is something which is used around the country.

“It is not something we dreamt up, this way we keep all of the appliances in a more cost-effective way.

“Bear in mind that if there are lives at risk we would send three appliances, which don’t have to be from one station.

“There is no evidence to say living far away makes any difference to the outcome.”

of an incident.

“People who live three to four miles away from Ashfield station like Selston are also covered by Alfreton so there is more than one station to cover the outlying areas.

“Some areas in the county are ten miles away from a station people don’t sit there worrying.” .

Thousands answer questionnaire

A consultation period was launched by the fire authority in September and was closed in December.

The process resulted in 2,665 questionnaires being completed.

It found 63 per cent of those surveyed strongly disagreed with the proposals, while 22 to 25 per cent agreed, the variance in agreement being applicable to the different locations being considered – Retford 25 per cent, Ashfield 23 per cent and Worksop 22 per cent.

Valentine’s cards to ‘share the love’

Valentines cards have been created by the Ashfield Independents, which they hope will persuade councillors on the authority to vote against the changes.

The cards which have been sent out to members of the authority read: “Please share the love and vote against the recommendations and vote to retain the current level of services at these vital fire stations”. The cards also feature a poem – Roses are red, violets are blue, save our services, Ashfield needs you.

Council leader ‘disappointed’ by selection

Councillor Cheryl Butler, leader at Ashfield District Council, said: “I am disappointed to hear Ashfield fire station has been selected to move to a mixed crewing model, as I know many residents, including myself, have voiced their doubts on this scenario.

“It is pleasing to hear periodic reviews are to be held to assess the impact of this decision. I do hope these reviews are held regularly and outcomes acted upon quickly should changes be needed.

“However, at a time when finances are tight, I fully understand why these difficult decisions need to be made.”

I know that this decision would not have been made lightly and hopefully Central Government will come to realise that money needs to be spent on public services instead of cutting all the time.”