wmfs1Further multi-million pound cuts in Government funding for West Midlands Fire Service could put lives, properties and frontline firefighters’ jobs at risk according to the Chair of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority.

It follows a meeting last week with the Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis, at which he stressed the need for greater flexibility and decision-making in setting the amount of money the service raises through Council Tax.

“We’re facing cuts in central funding until at least 2018. This will be on top of £21 million we’ll have lost between 2011 and 2015, and a further £10 million the year after,” said Councillor John Edwards.

“We’ve already lost 300 firefighter posts and made significant savings in management and administration costs. Fewer resources mean we’ve had to change the shape of our fire engine fleet and introduce Brigade Response Vehicles which can operate with a crew of three.

“We’re extremely proud of how, in spite of these cuts, we’ve managed to maintain our performance levels against our target of a five-minute response time for life-threatening incidents. But further cuts bring the threat of longer response times, fire station closures and frontline redundancies ever closer. We need a lot more flexibility and scope to make local Council Tax decisions, if we’re to continue our excellent protection and prevention work.”

Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach, who also attended the meeting with the Fire Minister, added: “We’re always developing and exploring new ways of preventing, protecting and responding to incidents, to keep the West Midlands safe. This includes continually looking at the option of employing on-call firefighters, but this doesn’t currently fit with our service delivery model.

“Our research points to on-call firefighters being more available at night, but our highest levels of demand is during the day. The introduction of on-call firefighters here in the West Midlands, and the nature of how they are deployed, means we wouldn’t be able to maintain or improve our current attendance standards. It would also be difficult to adapt how we train for risk to match current on-call models.

“Our full-time crews’ commitment to community fire safety work has driven down fires by more than 40 per cent over the last decade. The continued delivery of our vital prevention activities and risk surveys would be a significant consideration regarding the efficiency of on-call firefighters.
“We’ve invited the Fire Minister to visit West Midlands Fire Service, to see first-hand our service delivery model. We’d very much welcome his feedback on our ceaseless efforts to maintain and, where possible, improve our service delivery.”