Firefighters will be protesting outside New County Hall in Truro tomorrow (6 October) after plans were revealed to potentially axe the fire service's 999 control centre.
Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) said it needs to make efficiencies and told staff last month that it was considering closing the emergency control room.
The plans would see its operations shared with either another emergency service in Cornwall or outsourcing it to a different fire service outside the county. This could be as far away as Cumbria in the north west.
However, the council insists that no decisions have yet been made, despite staff claiming that they have been told that the centre could close at the end of March and that staff would be redeployed elsewhere in the service.
The Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) has said that Cornwall Council should be “ashamed” to be considering the move and say they object to the proposals on the grounds of public safety.
The union is now urging people in Cornwall to get behind the fight to retain the control centre in the Duchy.
On Thursday, Cornwall Council’s neighbourhoods overview and scrutiny committee will give councillors the first opportunity to discuss the plans with Chief Fire Officer Kathryn Billing, who is set to make a presentation to the committee at County Hall.
A report going to the committee has a recommendation that “the proposal to establish the most effective and efficient critical control centre for Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service be continued”.
The report also requests a full business case for “partnership model options” and that members of the committee undertake site visits to help them make an informed decision.
Under the outsourcing options being considered by the council are having 999 calls handled by services in Thames Valley, the North West or a partnership involving Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire.
The FBU has invited members of the public to join them in a lobby event ahead of the committee meeting on Thursday.
Guy Harrington, FBU regional secretary, said: “Firefighter control staff use specialist skills and knowledge to save the lives of the public.
"Now they’re calling on the public to back them as the fire service looks to shut their service down completely.
"Their highly specialised skills and knowledge are irreplaceable. Simply bundling in these calls with another emergency service would result in a far worse service. It would likely result in lives lost, and it would certainly result in longer attendance times, greater risk to the public, and greater risk to firefighters.
“This is a purely financial decision – it’s simply about cost-cutting, but it hasn’t even been properly costed.
"There is an alternative option: proper investment in local fire control and a formal partnership contract to provide future resilience during large scale incidents and extremely busy periods, such as the heat wave in August.”
The protest is set to take place from 9am on Thursday outside New County Hall in Truro.
Credit: Local Democracy Reporter Service/Richard Whitehouse