More than 40 firefighters have been tackling a fire at Hatherleigh Cattle Market in Devon. They were called out at 3.30am. 10% of the cattle market buildings and offices were on fire but crews report that they are making good progress.
– Lesley Griffiths MP, Minister for Local Government and Government Business.
Lee brings with him a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills needed to undertake the post and will continue to hold his post as Chief Fire Officer for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.
I believe that this will give a fresh perspective to the Adviser role, providing the opportunity to share and learn from each other and across borders.
As a serving Chief, Lee will understand the need to deliver effective services during these times of challenging budget cuts."
The Chief Fire Officer for Devon and Somerset said he was truly delighted to have been appointed as the Welsh Government's Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser and Inspector for Wales.
Lee Howell said he was looking forward to providing high quality independent advice based on 25 years public, private and charity sector experience in order to support the Welsh Government in its work.
– Lew Howell, Chief Fire Officer, Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service.
I have strong family connections in Wales and understand and respect the passion and pride Wales has as a confident nation, driving forward change, whilst at the same time, being rightly proud of its past. I look forward to contributing to its future.
I am also looking forward to building even stronger relationships between the Fire and Rescue Services in Wales and the Welsh Government as we collectively tackle some extremely challenging issues whilst continuing to provide the high quality public services the people of Wales rightly expect."
The Chief Fire Officer of Devon and Somerset is going part time to take a consultancy role in Wales.
Lee Howell has been hired by the Welsh government to work as an adviser and inspector for the fire service.
The Fire Brigades Union says it is furious with the announcement.
It says in a time of cuts to Devon and Somerset Fire services the decision to go part-time is a "kick in the teeth" for local fire crews.
Proposals to reduce the numbers of full-time firefighters and stations in Devon and Somerset are going to the vote later this morning. The county's fire authority has to make cuts of around eight million pounds in the next two years. The number of back-office staff will also be cut.
Devon and Somerset Fire Service members will vote on saving proposals next Wednesday (10th July). The service will be looking at how to make £8 million in savings by 2015.
The proposals include increasing work in the community to prevent fires and changing the way some fire engines are crewed by having ‘on- call’ Firefighters.
The Service is also reducing support staff numbers and this year alone plans to reduce numbers by around 40 posts. Senior posts have also been reduced. From 2010, the Chief Fire Officer has reduced the Senior Management Board from nine Directors to four.
"The savings we need to make are significant, and following the Spending Review announcement last week and Sir Ken Knight’s review of efficiencies in Fire and Rescue Services, we are clearer about the level of further reductions in the near future.
We have made savings already by looking at how we do things more efficiently as an organisation.
We don’t have the option of staying as we are - we need to make changes in order to maintain a sustainable and effective service to the community."
– Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell
“The proposals being considered do not require closure of fire stations, removal of fire engines or at this stage compulsory redundancies.
We do however need to live within our means and whilst I would rather not be taking out this amount of money from the Service, in reality we don’t have any control over the funding allocated to us by Government.
I, and the Chairman, will continue to lobby Government to ensure a fairer settlement for the future but we have to face the reality of today.”
The Chief Fire Officer at Devon and Somerset Fire Service is defending the savings they have announced.
– Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell
None of the proposals consulted on with the public require closures of fire stations, removal of fire engines or at this stage compulsory redundancies.
Devon and Somerset Fire Service say they will be making 40 non-operational job cuts this year, which is 13% of staff. They say this will not include any compulsory redundancies but will be found through deleting empty jobs, retirements and redeployment.
They say they have entered discussions with Avon Fire Service about a merger but currently the talks are about collaboration instead.
Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell says the savings required are unprecedented in the history of the fire service.
After the Chancellor's announcement last week Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service say they now need to find £8 million of savings by 2015/16. That includes the £5.5 million they have to make by 2014/15.
A meeting today has revealed that current savings only reach £7 million so they will have to either make compulsory redundancies or dip into their reserves to balance the books.