Jobs could go at Oakham fire station under cost cutting plans

THE number of firefighters at Oakham fire station could be halved as part of plans to save £400,000 a year.

The policy committee of Leicestershire Combined Fire Authority will meet on Wednesday to discuss proposals to introduce a system called day crewing plus for stations that are staffed full-time but have low activity levels. This includes Oakham fire station in South Street.

In a report ahead of the meeting, it states the system would provide an immediate 24 hours a day, seven days a week response capability but requires 50 per cent fewer staff to operate.

Staff would work shifts of 24 hours at a time, with half the hours being spent at work and half on call. Five people per fire engine would be maintained at all times.

The Fire Brigades Union is opposed to the scheme. Spokesman Tom Neal, who is based at Oakham, said: “We have not been officially consulted but we are aware of the proposals and Oakham would be one of the first stations affected. If it was introduced at Oakham where there are 29 wholetime firefighters, it could possibly result in as few as 12.”

Mr Neal said the system wasn’t conducive to safety because of the long hours.

He added: “It will mean that firefighters who work a 42-hour week could work between 84 and 96 hours a week and although, a significant number of hours will be on-call you have to remain close to the station.

“Although we would receive additional pay, our main concern is for the working conditions of our workforce.

“It is a ridiculous number of hours to work, which could affect safety.”

The plans are being recommended for approval subject to consultation.

Day crewing plus would save £401,188 a year compared to the current system, which includes an assumption that each member of staff would receive 32 per cent more pay.

Because the system does not comply with the authority’s working conditions, the service would have to rely on members of staff volunteering to transfer from the existing scheme. Those who do not volunteer at affected stations would be redeployed.

The report to the committee says the number of volunteers for other fire services where the day crewing plus is in place has outnumbered the vacancies.

The report states: “It has been implemented in a number of other services including Lancashire and Merseyside. Feedback indicates that the duty system is operationally efficient, very cost effective and ‘fit for purpose’.

“Introduction of the duty system will form an integral part in the approach to meeting the fiscal challenges that the Combined Fire Authority faces.”

Fire stations which use the system would have a “one-off capital investment” to improve the living accommodation.

In February last year, plans were scrapped to cut 24-hour cover at Oakham. The fire authority had put the proposals in its risk management plan for 2009 to 2012 but eventually opted against the changes. Oakham firefighters had presented a petition with more than 5,000 signatures.

Uppingham fire station in Ayston Road would not be affected because it is staffed by retained firefighters.