16 firefighters' jobs lost to save £550k
BUDGET cuts of more than £3.7 million will see 16 frontline firefighting jobs cut.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue service will lose the posts as it mothballs a specialist aerial ladder platform used to tackle fires and carry out rescues in tall buildings.
It has also extended a trial which reduces crew sizes to five and draws on a pool of staff who volunteer off-duty time to cover emergency shortages.
Government funding cuts mean the service must save 8.8 per cent, or £1.7 million, from its 2013/13 budget and a further £1.3 million as 6.2 per cent is cut a year later.
Ruark HiFi - for lovers of good music and fantastic sound
Headphone offer is our own offer as test for these vouchers - so don't delay offer expires 25/05/13
Only with this voucher, choose a set of headphones up to 10% of the units price or add some to it if you want a dearer set
ie Unit for £300 would give you £30 towards headphones of your choice
Contact: 01782 342609
Valid until: Saturday, May 25 2013
Eric Pickles's announcement last month indicated the service would lose 4.4 per cent of its 'spending power'.
The service must also make up a £700,000 shortfall triggered by accepting a Government grant in exchange for freezing its five per cent share of council tax in 2012/13.
The grant only covered the cost of a freeze for one year.
Chief fire officer Peter Dartford said the service's long-standing plans to save £4 million over four years mean it can make the savings without compromising safety.
The job cuts are expected to be met through retirements and not replacing firefighters as they leave.
Mr Dartford said: "We are keen that as well as not compromising community safety or firefighter safety, we're also protecting as many livelihoods as we can."
The ladder platform in Stafford will be retired, resulting in the 16 jobs being lost, but will be kept in reserve for when alternative platforms in Burton and Longton are undergoing maintenance.
The move will help save £550,000 but means the number of incidents the platforms can attend within a target of 30 minutes will fall from almost 99 per cent to 95 per cent.
Changes to crewing patterns will save £500,000.
Mr Dartford said: "With the crewing changes, we only had the right number of people 17 per cent of the time – the rest of the time we had too many or not enough. Just by making sure we have the right amount we have saved £500,000.
"The bottom line is the reductions are in line with what we expected and we will get on with it.
"The public and firefighters will not see reduced services. The key has been empowering the workforce. The guys on the trucks and the technicians who go out to houses have been actively involved in everything we've done."
Firefighters backed Mr Dartford's pledge that safety will not be put at risk.
Ian Broadhead, manager at Hanley fire station, said: "I think the service we are providing has actually improved, not stood still.
"With the onset of new training and more home risk checks, it's a better service.
"We're challenging workers to come back to us and raise the issues that need to be raised because they have that responsibility."
Service group manager Stuart Claughton added: "We're working smarter and better. We're moving things forward despite making cuts. We're making operational savings, including the new crewing arrangements, but the public will not see any difference."