Fire service issues consultation reminder

Local people are being reminded to have their say on the future priorities of Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) before the 31 December deadline.

A six-week consultation into the Service’s Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) will close at the end of the year. All fire and rescue services are required to produce an IRMP that assesses local and national risks and outlines how they will be addressed.  The report includes 22 separate actions which Avon Fire & Rescue Service will prioritise over the next two years.Chairman of Avon Fire Authority, Councillor Peter Abraham, said: “Our IRMP reflects the challenge we face of providing our services against a backdrop of seven years of reducing central Government funding.

“Since that time we have already reduced our Support Staff headcount by around 25%, making our ‘back-office function’ amongst the most lean in the country. We already collaborate with a wide range of partners to ensure the best outcomes for local people and will be moving our Headquarters function to Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s site at Portishead in 2017.

“We continue to seek best value in all our procurement – for example along with our partners in Devon and Somerset we pay less for the smoke alarms we provide free to the public than any other fire and rescue service in the country.

“Up to 2020 our budget will be reduced by £5 million and in response we are proposing a series of cost-saving measures which will result in the overall reduction of 49 wholetime operational posts across the Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire areas.

“Our proposals to revert Yate Fire Station back to the pre-2009 crewing model, where night cover was provided by on-call firefighters, would mean the total number of wholetime staff operating from Yate would be reduced by 14 posts, from 28 to 14.

“In addition to the proposed changes at Yate we also plan to change the way we crew specialist vehicles at other stations. It is proposed that turntable ladders based in Weston-super-Mare, Bedminster and Bath and the heavy rescue tender at Avonmouth would be crewed differently through a model known as ‘switch crewing’. Previously these vehicles have been ‘primary crewed’ with dedicated staff assigned to that vehicle. ‘Switch’ crewing means that staff are available to operate more than one appliance, depending on the requirements of the incident. This would see the reduction of a further 32 posts.

“A reduction of a further three posts will come from the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team. This team of 14 is currently solely deployed to USAR but it is proposed that this team will move into the wholetime establishment, operating as both frontline firefighters or USAR team members as required. A total of 11 posts will be moved into the wholetime establishment, an overall reduction of three.

“We will not be making any redundancies as all reductions in wholetime numbers will be achieved as members of staff leave the service, through retirement for example.

“While we are confident our current proposals will allow us to meet our existing response standards, every reduction in our budget makes that challenge increasingly difficult.

“The Home Office has also announced it will be conducting a Best Value Inspection of Avon Fire & Rescue Service. Although we are yet to receive the terms of reference or the timescales of this inspection, what we do know is that all associated costs will need to be met by Avon Fire Authority - and ultimately the local taxpayer.

“Costs of up to £1 million have being reported elsewhere in the media which would represent an outgoing we can ill-afford, particularly given the extent of the financial pressure we are already under.

“We would encourage anyone who has an interest in the future of Avon Fire & Rescue Service to read the IRMP and complete the consultation survey which is open until Saturday 31 December. It will be the feedback provided through this questionnaire which will inform the final decisions made by Members of Avon Fire Authority.”

The IRMP is available for download here http://www.avonfire.gov.uk/documents/category/63-integrated-risk-management-plan?download=1094:integrated-risk-management-plan-2016-2020-pdf-1786kb

The survey can be completed online at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LKYYDRP