FIRE chiefs in Cheshire say they expect to cut £8milion from their budget over the next four years.
The Cheshire Fire Authority have been told to expect ongoing cuts of eight per cent a year from central government funding, which means they need to save £8million over the next four years.
The authority has already laid out plans to cut £2.2million from the budget by cutting support service areas and changing how fire engines are staffed by increasing the use of on-call firefighters.
In addition to the cuts, the authority is increasing its council tax precept by 1.99 per cent this year – meaning that people in a band D home will pay £69.09 a year, a rise of 2.6p a week or £1.34 a year.
Despite these changes, last week the authority approved a £13.78million capital programme to build four new fire stations in Cheshire in Alsager, Penketh, Lymm and another on the junction of the M53 and M56 motorways as part of the authority’s plan to change emergency response.
The authority also approved three other key capital projects in 2014-15 which include £700,000 on a new hydraulic platform to help firefighters work at height, £670,000 on two new fire engines and two new four-wheel drive vehicles and £74,000 so all fire engines can be fitted with the latest thermal image cameras.
Fire authority chair Cllr John Joyce said these changes would mean the service will improve and at the same time create efficiencies.
He said: “I’m pleased that despite the major and ongoing cuts in our Government funding, we have been able to limit the increase in our council tax to under two per cent as we know just how tight money is for many of our residents.
“This still means we will have to find big savings over the next few years but I believe our plans to change how we provide emergency response in the future will deliver the first class fire and rescue service our communities deserve – and make efficiencies. I’m pleased that we will be building new stations rather than closing any and we intend to complete the changes without making any firefighters redundant.”
But in October, the Leader reported that the proposed building of a fire station on the M53/M56 junction would take one fire engine away from Chester and one from Ellesmere Port.
Dave Williams, secretary of the Cheshire Fire Brigade Union, said in October that he was concerned the changes would increase waiting times for back-up fire engines.
He said: “It is spreading the fire cover a little thinner because it’s a fire engine out of Chester and one out of Ellesmere Port and putting them in between.
“There are some pluses because of access to the motorway but the impact in Chester and Ellesmere Port is that it is taking resources away from the population.
“On the face of it there will be more areas that one fire engine will get to within 10 minutes but the downside of that is that most house fires, to control the incident, we need a minimum of two engines.
“The service may look like we are achieving first response within 10 minutes but the actual impact is that the second engine will take longer and firefighters will be waiting longer for that back-up.”
See full story in the Chester Leader