Rift at the heart of North Wales service over proposed changes to staffing

  • Video report by ITV Wales reporter Ian Lang

North Wales firefighters are hoping that on Saturday the public will turn out in numbers in Wrexham to support their campaign to resist cuts to the service and go for growth.

The North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority say areas around the A55 corridor are well served but they want to improve response times in rural areas.

The service has had issues with finding enough retained or part time firefighters to crew rural stations.

The authority now wants to make stations at Dolgellau, Corwen and Porthmadog full-time day stations.

But that would have an impact on fire stations in the more populated areas-and it is how that would be achieved which is causing a rift.

There are three options out to public consultation two of which would involve cutting firefighter's jobs and in one losing a fire engine in Wrexham.

A third option would involved closing five rural stations-but that hasn't got the support of senior fire officers so is an unlikely course of action.

All would involve a hike in taxpayer contributions to varying degrees.

There are concerns that changes will impact on stations in more populated areas.

The chair of the fire authority councillor Dylan Rees says they are keen to continue talking with the FBU in the search for a solution and that included the FBU's growth proposal.

"What we're looking to do is to redeploy with some of the options that we're going out for consultation on. 

"But I need to emphasise that it does not mean that we will necessarily go for any of the three options that we're consulting on. We may adopt a different option or a variation of one of those options.

He added "the tough economic times and the hardships that many families were facing they were very conscious of placing any extra financial burdens on council tax payers".

The FBU say their plan, which would involve a small hike in what people are paying, could fund day manning of the three rural stations without the need for any cuts or redeployment.

Firefighters are now considering industrial action over the proposed changes to cover across the region.

FBU rep Matt Ryan says the plan 'was achievable'. He added: "We don't want to see any downgrading the stations or any station closures or any job losses. One way out of this is a very small and modest increase in the amount that people pay for the fire service. 

"We can also look at efficiencies within our service. We believe we have identified some key efficiencies and spending that can either be delayed or taken off the table.'

Firefighters in North Wales are set to be balloted on taking action-short of a strike-to further their case.

Gavin Roberts, FBU rep at Rhyl fire station says the service relied on 'goodwill' and 'that could be withdrawn'.

"People working extra hours on the days off to prop up the service because the retained duty system duty isn't working."

He continued: "The whole time firefighters are effectively putting a sticking plaster on it at the moment."

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