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A former Isle of Wight retained firefighter, who loyally served his local community for over 30 years, has spoken out about the controversial proposed changes to the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service.

It has been put forward to the Isle of Wight Council that Ryde and Sandown fire stations will be manned by a minimum of 4 firefighters for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Ryde is currently manned just 8 hours a day and Sandown is a retained-only station.

A decision on the shake-up was due to be made last night (Thursday), but that decision has been deferred by a month to allow the public and councillors to be well-informed of the changes. Last week the Fire Brigade’s Union expressed their anger at the lack of public consultation.

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It remains unclear at this point which appliances will be kept or changed and whether or not the Island will indeed lose 1 of it’s aerial ladder platforms.

Yesterday (Thursday) concerns were raised that a cost-saving exercise is already taking place when crews were called to a factory in Sandown. For reasons unknown, a retained appliance from Shanklin was not mobilised to the incident, despite being on the run. Instead appliances from Ryde and Newport were sent.

The ex-retained crew member, who wishes to remain anonymous, has said:

“Over the years I have seen the number of personnel at Isle of Wight retained stations reducing and a lack of proactive recruitment by the Isle of Wight Fire Service to maintain adequate crewing.

“Nowadays, newly appointed retained staff are required to follow an academic course for a number of years as a part of their training which requires some personal discipline to study in addition to doing their day job. This is to bring them in line with full-time colleagues.

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“So it takes a considerable personal commitment to study, attend additional courses and weekly drill nights and also be available for potential emergencies for less than £5,000 per year. Additionally, retained stations will also support many local community events including fire awareness sessions with local school and carnivals.

“Indeed the retained system provides good value and is a relatively inexpensive way of dealing with emergencies in the community.

“The proposal for day manning in the Sandown area with a 4 man crew for 12 hours a day comes at some considerable cost. To maintain this level of crewing, 14 full time staff would be needed to cover the shift system. It is estimated that each position will cost some £42,000 including other costs, thus making a total of around £588,000 per annum. This cover is already provided by existing stations in the Bay area and will only duplicate the existing resource.

“So let’s make a relatively smaller investment by being more rigorous in recruiting retained firefighters in the Bay area, which makes far more economic sense in these financially impoverished times. We continually hear about reductions in services provided by the council so I am sure that the council could make better use of £588,000!

“If this proposal is implemented it will take a large number of shouts away from the existing retained crews during the day. Retained crews would then only be on first call during the evenings and nights. This in turn could create a negative effect that could lead to a reduction in personal motivation and commitment and create another obstacle to further recruitment and retention of retained staff.

“So there could be a further reduction in retained personnel and there will then be the need to provide an additional 4 full time staff to cover the other 12 hours of the day at a further additional cost of £588,000. Both strategies potentially creating a funding cost of over £1million pounds each year.

“Does the council really want to meet this financial commitment on behalf of the Isle of Wight taxpayers? The answer is to invest and support the retained system, supported by a small number of full-timers based in Newport and Ryde as at present.

Ex-retained Isle of Wight Firefighter (Bay area)

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