Fire Authority approves Crediton one pump plan - but ‘alternative vehicle’ may replace lost pump

By Alan Quick   |   Editorial Manager/Photojournalist   |
Sunday 19th January 2020 7:30 am
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Councillor Nick Way, who tabled an amendment to try to save Crediton’s second fire appliance, pictured in front of Crediton Fire Station. AQ 2209 ()

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THE Devon and Somerset Fire Authority approved plans to remove second fire appliances from stations at Crediton, Lynton, Martock and Totnes on Friday, January 10.

The County Councillor for Crediton, Cllr Nick Way, a member of the Fire Authority, was at the meeting and proposed an amendment to try to save the second Crediton appliance but this amendment was lost by a narrow majority.

However, during the debate, a spokesperson for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said that it may be possible that an “alternative vehicle” might be able to operate from Crediton as a second vehicle.

This will be a small consolation to Crediton firefighters and the area.

The number of firefighters at the Crediton station has increased in recent months and two firefighters have also completed a driving course, which means more cover for a second appliance and more availability of firefighters.

It is hoped that DSFRS will be able to confirm what the “alternative vehicle” might be in the near future.

The Fire Authority meeting confirmed that Budleigh Salterton and Topsham fire stations will close.

The Authority backed the controversial proposals that had been put forward to save cash but also improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Service.

Budleigh Salterton fire station will close and the affected firefighters will now respond from Exmouth Fire Station, while Topsham fire station will be relocated to Service Headquarters (Clyst St George), until an on-call crew can be established at Middlemoor.

The third fire engines from Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay and Yeovil stations will also be removed, but will instead be replaced with alternative vehicles that have a firefighting capability.

Lynton’s second fire appliance will be replaced with a new wildfire 4×4 and All-Terrain Vehicle and an alternative vehicle that can transport firefighters will be provided for the other three stations.

Proposals to implement day crewing only model at Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton have been deferred, subject to a revised 24/7 crewing model being agreed with the Fire Brigades Union.

Risk-based availability will be introduced for the second fire engines at Brixham, Dartmouth, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton, Wells and Williton, rather than initial plans to only crew the second engine at night. Chard, Frome and Wellington will retain its second fire engine.

A reprieve for Appledore, Ashburton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, and Woolacombe stations – initially set to close – has been granted, after councillors agreed with the recommendation to save them for closure for the time being.

The decision follows 3,818 responses to the initial proposals that saw 95 per cent of people opposed to all six closure options put forward.

The proposals were part of plans that not only would make financial savings for the Authority but would also improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Service, but one response.

Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer, said: “We are confident that we can secure alternative ways of working with our whole time staff which will allow us to undertake significantly more prevention and protection activity which will also make communities safer.”

He said that the proposals they have put forward derive from the options consulted on and the consultation responses and aims to strike the balance between driving reform and enabling reallocation of resources to risk, specifically providing more prevention and protection activity.

He added that the new proposals would also cut the risk of fire deaths from 7.99 a year to 7.65 a year, and RTC deaths from 33.72 to 33.02.

The Fire Authority Members are appointed by the constituent authorities of Devon County Council, Somerset County Council, Torbay Council and Plymouth City Council to oversee the provision of fire and rescue services for the geographical counties of Devon and Somerset.

In total, there are 26 members of the Authority, consisting of 16 Conservatives, five from Labour, four from the Liberal Democrats, and one Independent.

Crediton and District Labour Party has written to the MP for Central Devon, Mel Stride, about the reduction in service at Crediton Fire Station.

In a statement, the Labour Party said: “According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the population of the Devon and Somerset area has increased by five per cent in the last five years.

“The latest figures for Crediton itself are not yet available but it increased by 15 per cent between 2001 and 2011 and is still increasing rapidly judging by the new housing estate opposite Tesco.

“In addition, we have an increasing proportion of older residents. Fire service figures show that the likelihood of dying from a fatal house fire is five times higher for 85+ year olds than it is for 60-69 year olds.

“A freedom of information request as detailed in the ‘Crediton Courier’ revealed that between July 2018 and July 2019, Crediton crews did not get mobilised for 13 incidents in the Crediton station area, presumably because of lack of staff. “Appliances from other stations had to be mobilised for another 66 other incidents in our area. Crediton has two engines but, it appears, only the staff to operate one, which is, we assume, why the plan is to remove it.

“Yet whilst overall funding for the Service over the last five years has stayed much the same, inflation has increased by eight per cent (ONS) which means that there has been an effective cut in funding by this amount.

“So the needs have increased and funding has reduced. Surely this warrants more investment, not further cuts? They are being dressed up as savings made due to investing in preventative measures, but the indications are that Crediton is already under-resourced.

“We sent our own freedom of information request to Devon and Somerset Fire Service back in July asking what redundancies can be expected from this loss. We have so far received no response.

“We appeal to you as our recently re-elected MP to tell us what you intend to do in order to fight this drastic decision, which we believe could place the lives of people and firefighters at real risk.”

By Alan Quick and Daniel Clarke

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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