ECFRS' Senior Managers have unveiled their plans for changes to fire cover across the county. There will be no station closures and no job losses as the Service faces up to some £10m in budget cuts.

Following one of the most radical reviews of its fire cover arrangements - launched against the background of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review which has brought the prospect of some £10m of cuts to the fire service in Essex - ECFRS says it wants to:

  • Change crewing arrangements at Canvey Fire Station. From April, the plan is to change from one whole time and one retained crewed fire appliances to two retained crewed machines. Wholetime firefighters at Canvey will be moved to other stations and posts.
  • Change crewing arrangements at Brentwood Fire Station from two whole time fire appliances to one whole time and one retained. Timing for this move will be within the first two years of the four year spending review as part of phase two changes.
  • Also under phase two changes, the plan will be to reduce watch strengths at Orsett, Clacton, Loughton and Rayleigh Weir Fire Stations. This change will release 16 firefighter posts - not jobs - by removing one post from each watch. There is currently an over capacity for training purposes within each watch at 13 firefighters instead of 12.
  • Under phase three changes, ECFRS plans to phase out the day crewing system which impacts Waltham Abbey, Dovercourt, Woodham Ferrers and Baddow Fire Stations. In a move designed to reflect a more accurate level of risk with cover, day crewing will be replaced by a new low level activity and risk (LLAR) crewing system. Day crewing stations are those where crews are on station during the day but respond by pager at nights and weekends.
  • Finally, as part of phase four plans, ECFRS will change the current crewing system at Dunmow Fire Station from two retained crewed appliances to one whole time and one retained crewed appliances. The change will remove some retained posts but will introduce up to 28 wholetime posts, sourced from other changes being made under the review. This move is designed to provide strengthened cover to support the growth of the area, in particular Stansted Airport.

"We have already made £3.3m of savings and have identified a further £1.6m before we were forced to recommend these changes to the frontline," said Chief Fire Officer David Johnson. "With staff costs making up three-quarters of the Service budget, a reduction in firefighter posts is one of the primary moves we can make to cut costs.

"But we have pledged to do all we can to ensure that those people working with us today who want to be with us in four years time will have a job to do. Yes that may mean fewer firefighters in establishment terms but it is a relatively straightforward option that will allow us to deliver on our commitment to our staff and ensure we do not compromise on the level of protection we deliver to the public.

"The plans we will outline to members will help us to deliver reductions by natural attrition over the next two years without compulsory redundancies or retirements and they also deliver change without station closures and without any reduction in the number of front line fire appliances serving the County.

"We have worked with professional statisticians to look at many thousands of modelling options for delivering fire cover across Essex - all the changes we are proposing will deliver improved service delivery where it is needed in the north of the County.

"These changes will address all the impact issues as we know them now from the CSR for the next two years. The Service will continue to review its strategic planning beyond two years so that ECFRS is in good shape to respond to definitive budget information when it is forthcoming from Central Government. This relates to the grant formula for years three and four of the Comprehensive Spending Review period." 

The outline proposals were made public in advance of the meeting of Essex Fire Authority's Policy and Strategy Committee on January 19. At this meeting ECFRS' Senior Management Board will be looking for elected members to endorse their proposals and recommend adoption by the full Fire Authority when it meets in February. At the end of last year, members already signed up to a set of principles that would govern ECFRS plans for change, including wherever possible protecting the jobs of its workforce and keeping stations open.


Date posted: 13.01.11