LONG READ: Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service Consultation Response

This is our official response submitted to the consultation for the Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) for 2018/19. More details can be found here… http://www.cheshirefire.gov.uk/about-us/key-documents/irmp/irmp-201819-plan.


The following submission is to be considered the formal response of the Crewe and Nantwich Constituency Labour Party:

More full-time firefighters jobs are being stripped out of the service in the medium to long-term. The resource is not the equipment, it’s the firefighters! The service seems intent on discounting that fact.

Crewe & Nantwich Labour Party has grave concerns of the availability of the second pump at an urban station given the service’s questionable record across the County. You are in effect reducing fire cover in South Cheshire. CFRS cannot effectively recruit on-call firefighters at Crewe given the location of the station, which is not set to change. The nearby demographics and the awkward location in the far south-east of the town means any short-term solution may not be sustained, that’s even if the short term (a fully trained on-call contingent) solution can be achieved.

The Service talks about sacrifices elsewhere in the County. The fact remains you have saved the biggest sacrifice until last. When Chester was downgraded, CFRS built a brand new station and had their ‘second’ full time appliance positioned in close proximity at Powey Lane. No such offer has been made to the people of South Cheshire.

We also have grave concerns at response times going up. Yes, CFRS tend to hit their response time targets but there is no evidence to suggest that response times are actually coming down, in fact it is our understanding that since the current Chief Fire Officer set the services own standard – a 10 minute response (up from a response within 5 minutes) that attendance times have increased each year. With a pump that will not be available a lot of the time we want to note with concern that senior officers at Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service deem it appropriate to state on public record that the on-call model will provide a pump three and a half minutes after the arrival of a full-time pump. The public will take that as fact and we suspect the senior management team know that. That is the best case scenario and dependent on a number of factors, it would be remiss of the service not to publish the average attendance times of other such on-call times to evidence this claim, made in public to elected local authority members. The Head of Service Delivery, when pressed, has said that ‘this is the model and not the reality’. So what is the reality?

We have grave concerns over the sustainability of the on call model that is advocated by the services senior management team, given that from your own documents in the public domain it appears to be consistently failing. Since you have removed a large number of full time appliances we have to ask where the resilience is coming from when these on call appliances are unavailable. We also note with concern the increasing reliance on resources being drawn from Greater Manchester just to make the attendance standard in Cheshire East.

Crewe & Nantwich Labour Party firmly rejects any plans to downgrade Crewe Fire Station. Local people do not support these changes regardless of which political party they support. This is a matter of community safety, protecting skilled employment and defending our residents against the destruction of their public services.

On the IRMP more generally, we have been continually disappointed over a number of years in a document that merely acts as a glossy brochure rather than a detailed, comprehensive document that focuses on risk and the safety challenges faced by our communities.

The risk to our communities from austerity and continual budget cuts is becoming clear for all to see. We do not ask the Fire Authority to set an illegal budget but we are confident that the Service can find £650,000 to keep Crewe’s second pump staffed by whole-time fire crews. After spending millions on a new fantastic safety centre in the far North of the Borough for example, we remain confident that the Authority is able to fund Crewe’s second pump now and in the long term.

We also note and thank the Chief Fire Officer for Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service for going on record and stating in the press that ‘enough is enough’ in respect to austerity that is devastating our emergency services. Going onto budget ‘season’, is it not time that the CFO for Cheshire does the same, rather than to claim these proposals are going to improve response and efficiency, or not have any detrimental effect on attendance times?

The continued practice of making savings only to then transfer them for capital build programmes is wrong. Given the fact that you have achieved quite considerable savings from your emergency response or service delivery budget – over 2 million pounds, the residents of Crewe and the wider Cheshire East area simply do not believe the claims that the service and authority cannot afford to maintain the current second full time appliance at Crewe fire station.

As part of the IRMP, the Authority should front up to residents and be honest with them and stop pretending they are paying more and therefore getting more. The fact is the opposite. We believe there is a great need for more transparency and accountability after witnessing the consultation events at Cheshire East Council and Crewe Town Hall.

Yours,

Crewe and Nantwich Constituency Labour Party

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