The Isle of Wight Council’s Scrutiny Committee and The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are urging the Cabinet to reject plans to implement changes to the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service.
Last night (Thursday) the Scrutiny Committee met at County Hall to discuss the controversial proposed changes to the set up of the Island’s fire service – changes which some firefighters say would put crews and the public at risk. The plans involve cutting the number of firefighters in a crew from 5 to 4 as well as axing 15% of the Island’s firefighting workforce.
According to committee members, a number of public safety concerns have not been addressed and therefore they are recommending that the Cabinet refuse the service review when it goes before them next week.
The decision has been welcomed by those campaigning against the changes, but they know the Cabinet could still approve the plans.
Spence Cave, FBU Isle of Wight Brigade Secretary has said:
“The scrutiny committee have decided on the evidence produced that they are not content with the plan. If the cabinet decide to go ahead with this then it will prove there is no democratic process within the Isle of Wight council. The Conservative cabinet can steam roll through any decision they like.
“There have already been questions asked as to why this review didn’t go to a public consultation as there are fundamental changes to the existing integrated risk management plan. The council seem to think putting some FAQs on its website, and releasing the paper six and a half days before the scrutiny committee meeting is a way to measure the feeling of the Isle of Wight public and council tax payer.
“The Isle of Wight Fire Service is at the cutting edge with its firefighting techniques, equipment and training. Cutting crews and firefighter numbers would hamper the use of some of these resources and the safety of firefighters.
“The Fire Brigades Union, the professional voice of firefighters on the Island and nationally, have the safety of the public and firefighters at the forefront of their opposition to this review”
Although the Isle of Wight Council say the review is not about cutting costs, many within the fire service feel that is exactly what it is about. The Council argue that the changes will improve resilience and response times – albeit by 1.7% – but it is unclear how this will be achieved if firefighters are responding to medical emergencies on behalf of the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service, as proposed by senior officials.
If the Council’s Cabinet give the go ahead on Monday then the Isle of Wight will have 3 fire engines ready to mobilise at 90 seconds notice. But that will only be for 12 hours a day… the other 12 hours of the day will be covered by 1 fire engine and a minimum of just 4 firefighters. Retained crews will provide additional cover, however retained numbers are extremely low at some stations which could spell disaster during the night if the station is off the run.
All 10 fire stations on the Island will remain open no matter what, but if the proposed changes are given a green light then Islanders can expect to see the implementation of intermediate appliances which will carry between 2 and 5 firefighters. The map below shows that all retained stations could be in line to receive one of these smaller appliances.
A Facebook group has been set up to discuss the Island’s review and what it means for the public. Head over to https://www.facebook.com/Isle-of-Wight-Fire-Service-Review-and-you-1618023388287079/.