Radical plans that could lead to a massive shake up in our fire service. The Government's former chief fire and rescue adviser claims the service is out of date and he is putting forward proposals aiming at saving £200 million a year.
But the Fire Brigades Union in our region has hit back - claiming this will lead to job losses which in turn could put more lives at risk.
Senior officers at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service have today spoken out to reassure the public over the future of the County’s fire service.
The reassurance comes in response to a widely-publicised, independent report by Sir Ken Knight, former chief fire and rescue adviser for England, recommending change for the UK’s fire and rescue service.
The report, called Facing the Future, looks into efficiencies which could be achieved by fire services and points towards merger, collaboration and even potential nationalisation as a route to delivering up to £200 million in savings.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley says: “As a Service, Essex is already following a number of the strategies set out in Sir Ken’s report and we have a good story to tell.
"We are midway through a major workforce transformation programme designed to completely overhaul the organisation, its people and its processes.
“We are implementing new ways of working to use our people in the most efficient and effective way to cover temporary shortfalls on fire stations and improve the availability of fire engines across the County. We have reduced firefighter numbers.
“Over the next few years, we are anticipating a need to deliver services with significantly less money, so clearly some of the strategies Sir Ken outlines will continue to be on our radar.
“The fire and rescue service is likely to undergo significant change and traditional work practices will have to be challenged as managers across the UK look to deliver more for less.
“ECFRS senior managers will consider the report and the recommendations with members of the Fire Authority in due course.”
– Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union
"It is not just the Fire Brigades Union warning about this. Increasingly others in the fire service, including chief officers, are concerned over our ability to deliver this essential service.
"Fire stations are being closed and fire engines are being axed. Last year alone a further 1,200 firefighter jobs were cut.
"All these cuts mean a poorer service for the public. They mean waiting longer for a fire engine if you have a fire or other emergency."
Appearing on ITV1's Daybreak, he said: "Why is it that one fire service can cost twice as much as another, even though if, per head of population ... it is in a very similar area?
"If those above the average cost just as much as the average, which provide really good fire services, there is £200 million to be saved.
"So it is right that these questions are asked, and that it is answered and debated by the fire and rescue service leaders themselves."
Dave Green of the Fire Brigades Union warned that lives could be lost and reducing the numbers of firefighters would be "completely wrong".
He said the reduction in callouts was due to the preventative work of the fire service, but any cuts could mean preventative work was diminished.