Nelson faces fire crew cuts

Fire crews in operation at Barley
Fire crews in operation at Barley
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NELSON looks set to lose up to half its whole-time operational firefighters – but an assurance has be given it will not put the public in danger or affect the level of service provided.

There are plans to change the way Nelson Fire Station works by introducing a new system which means firefighters will be on operation during the day but also on call at night.

And that would mean building accommodation at the station, so they can live there and their families can join them when they are on call.

The Day Crewing Plus system has been introduced at other fire stations across the county and seems to be going down well. It will reduce staff numbers and cut costs.

If the system is agreed, it will mean Nelson Fire Station has emergency response staffing including one watch manager, three crew managers and 10 firefighters. That is a 50% or so reduction in the number of operational staff at the station, but the belief is it does not mean a reduction in the emergency cover provided.

Crews would be working an average 42 hours a week on duty – like they have always done – but they will have another 42 “stand-by” hours during the night where they respond from purpose-built accommodation within the station grounds or their home address if it is near enough to let them meet response times.

It enables fire crews to choose working hours to fit in with their own needs or family requirements, provided the required number of hours are worked and the fire engine is crewed at all times.

The salary of staff who work the Day Crewing Plus system is significantly enhanced to reflect the increased commitment, yet still offers a saving to the council tax payer of £400,000 per fire engine, which equates to a 38% reduction in the pay bill prior to introducing the system at each station.

The Day Crewing Plus system was first introduced at Penwortham and St Annes, has since then it has appeared at Rawtenstall and others.

The Lancashire Combined Fire Authority has been considering a further six stations, but it was recommended at a planning committee meeting yesterday that it should be Nelson and Morecambe next. And it will be considered at a full meeting of the authority on December 10th.

Nelson county councillor George Adam will be at the meeting when the decision is made. He said: “It means they will live at the station when they are on operation and can have their family there as well.

“It seems pretty popular at the other stations where it is in operation. They get bigger wages as well!”

Nelson currently has one full-time and one retained crew and County Coun. Adam was confident the two pumps would remain in operation from there.

And he said: “It seems to be working well and I am quite happy with it. The people who are doing it are happy with it - it works with them. And Nelson Fire Station could be rebuilt. Other stations involved have had brand new stations - it’s all been rebuilt!”

The Fire Brigade Union is concerned about Government funding for fire services. Its county spokesman, Steve Harman, said: “Over several years Lancashire has had a pretty poor budget to fund the fire service. At some of the quieter stations they are determined to put them on to the DCP system.”

He added: “You don’t get a change of shift so you don’t get a relief crew when you are on duty. We are opposed to firefighters having to work 84 hours a week.”