Plans to cut the size of fire crews are going ahead - despite concerns that it could put the public and firefighters at greater risk.
The proposal is part of a package of plans for the future of the Herts Fire and Rescue Service, known as the IRMP.
According to the scheme - which was presented to a meeting of the community safety and waste management cabinet panel on Friday (June 29) - crewing with four firefighters is “appropriate and cost effective”.
It says that the vast majority of appliances in the county are already crewed with a maximum of four. And it suggests that reducing the size of crews may even improve cover in some areas of the county. “By officially adopting this policy we can take a holistic view of the Service and deploy spare capacity across the organisation, including to on call stations,” it says. “This will then provide a better and more even spread of firefighters across the entire county which will significantly improve our day time fire cover in more rural areas.” But at the meeting some councillors continued to question the plan, which will require the backing of the cabinet before it can go ahead. Liberal Democrat councillor John Hale said everybody was concerned that the changes to crewing should go without event of incident. And he said they would want to make sure there were appropriate numbers for the safety of the public and for fire officers. But deputy chief fire officer Chris Bigland asked the panel to trust their professional judgement, which was based on evidence. And the cabinet panel did recommend cabinet approve the revised IRMP - with only two Labour councillors voting against. Since the proposals in the IRMP were first made public in December, there has been public consultation and open meetings. Most of the 120 who responded to the cosultation - 58.6 per cent - said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the plan to reduce the crew size. It was also reported to the meeting that just 49 people had attended the three public meetings, held in Watford, Berkhamsted, and Hertford. The relatively low turnout was highlighted by Conservative councillor Simon Bloxham, himself a former firefighter. And he suggested people not turning up may be a signal that they were quite happy with the plans in the IRMP. However following the meeting Hertfordshire Fire Brigades Union Secretary Daren Scotchford called for a further review of the plan. “The FBU have significant concerns with a number of proposals contained within the draft plan,” he said. “We are particularly concerned that, despite widespread public opposition to reducing crew sizes from five firefighters to four on frontline appliances, the IRMP still proposes this reduction. “We would urge the county council to think again on this and, other proposed cuts as we believe they will be to the detriment of both Firefighters and the public’s safety and welfare. “Our members are prepared to defend their Service and all options to achieve this remain on the table.” Meanwhile councillors were asked to back a recommendaton that a new ‘rapid response vehicle’ would be trialled at Watford Fire Station - but it would be in ADDITION to the two existing fire engines. All the proposals on the IRMP will need to be backed by the council’s cabinet before they can be implemented.