Full-time fire officers to be halved in Oakham

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THE number of full-time firefighters at Oakham fire station will be halved by the end of the year.

Leicestershire Combined Fire Authority is pushing ahead with plans to introduce a new shift system called day crewing plus at Oakham fire station in South Street.

The system operates with 50 per cent fewer full-time firefighters but still provides immediate fire cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The scheme means it costs £400,000 a year less to run Oakham fire station.

Oakham will be the first station out of five in Leicestershire and Rutland to have day crewing plus.

Assistant chief fire and rescue officer Steve Lunn said the introduction of the scheme coincided with a number of retirements in the service.

He said there would be no compulsory redundancies because firefighters would be redeployed to other stations. The service has not recruited for the last two years.

Mr Lunn said: “I anticipate day crewing plus will be brought in at Oakham station in October or November and it will be the first of the five stations to implement it.

“The thing to stress is that the community of Oakham will not see a difference to the emergency response.”

The scheme is being brought in at low-activity stations - those with less than 700 calls a year. The service’s busier stations get 2,000 a year.

Each station has to have five full-time firefighters available at all times under the scheme. They would work 151 shifts of 24 hours, spending 12 hours on-duty and then 12 hours on-call, however, they have to remain at the station while on-call.

People who volunteer first will get a preference of where they want to be based.

There are 28 full-time firefighters at Oakham station and only 14 will be required. The retained firefighters based at Oakham station will not be affected.

The Leicestershire branch of the Fire Brigades Union is against the proposals because the scheme requires staff to work shifts of 24 hours a day, which is against its conditions of service.

Chairman of the branch Carl Doughton said the union was against the principle of the system but accepted it was likely to be introduced and was fighting to get the best deal for its members.

Mr Doughton said: “Day crewing plus is being used to stretch us thinner and to our limit. It all stems from the cuts in funding from the Government.

“It is unlikely there won’t be enough volunteers, particularly at Oakham. It is a long way to go if they are transferred to the central stations. I feel for the people at Oakham.”

The policy committee of the authority discussed the plans at a meeting on Wednesday and agreed to move forward with the plans.

As part of the plans, Oakham fire station will have to undergo a £1m refurbishment to improve its living accommodation, which includes more bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms.

A consultation event on the revamp plans will be held at the station on Saturday, January 21, between 10am and midday.

Day crewing plus is also being introduced at stations in Birstall, Hinkley, Castle Donnington and Coalville over the next three years.