‘Stations have got to close’ claims fire chief

New Headquarters: Sean Frayne, Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive, addresses the special guests at the opening of the new Buxton Fire and Rescue Centre, Staden Lane Industrial Estate, Buxton.
New Headquarters: Sean Frayne, Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive, addresses the special guests at the opening of the new Buxton Fire and Rescue Centre, Staden Lane Industrial Estate, Buxton.

The county’s top fire officer has warned he cannot meet budget cuts without closing fire stations.

In a meeting of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Chief Fire Officer Sean Frayne said changes needed to be made in order to meet the pressure of impending £4.4million spending cuts.

Addressing the authority, he said: “We have to accept that we need to reduce the size of this organisation to fund the people we have.

“I don’t believe that we can sustain 31 fire stations but what we can do is change the duty systems of these stations.”

The service proposed the relocation of the recently built Chesterfield Station and the closure Staveley and Dronfield stations.

It proposed to close Matlock and Wirksworth stations and a create a new fire station in Cromford to serve the area.

The authority has also proposed closing Bradwell and Hathersage stations with a new station in Bamford and closing Ripley, Crich and Alfreton stations to relocate Ripley Station to the A38 junction.

Over the course of a 12–week public consultation, 984 surveys were returned to the fire service with the majority of respondents opposed to the closure of fire stations.

Fire chief Frayne said: “We have taken into account what members of the community have said to us and we have factored that in. I have got to accept that they have a process of delivering the service that we have - there are some things that we can achieve and there are some things that we can’t.

“At the end of the day, the realisation has to be that having already delivered £4millon in cuts and having to do that again the same is not an option. Even if you required me to do that I will fail.

“We have to do something and we must do it now.”

Members agreed to the following outcome proposals –

– Set up a working group to monitor the implementation of proposals.

– To reduce the requirements for the number of existing uniformed and support roles and manage the reduction in a sensitive manner to avoid compulsory redundancies over the next two years.

– To maintain the recently built stations and look at station closures as a last resort.

– To apply the authority’s financial reserves to fund ‘Invest to Save’ projects as the number of roles reduces.

– To continue discussions with neighbouring fire and rescue services on the provision of ‘over the border’ services to Derbyshire before making any decision on the closure of stations close to the border.

– To support the introduction of Smaller Response Vehicles as a more appropriate response to risk.

– To continue discussions with other organisations to explore opportunities in respect of maximising use of assets in its property portfolio.

– To develop opportunities for more effective working through shared services.

– To continue to explore opportunities to maximise income for the service.

– To reduce mobilisations to non–emergency incidents.

– To continue to invest in prevention and protection activities.

– To continue to challenge all areas across the service to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in provision.

The amount taxpayers pay to the fire service has been increase in order to protect them from harm – according to fire bosses.

In a meeting of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Authority on Thursday, members voted in favour of increasing the precept by 1.9 per cent.

The service has been charged with making £4.4million in cuts over the next four years – this is on top of the £4million already saved over the last four years.

Speaking in the meeting, Chief Fire Officer Sean Frayne appealed to authority members: “I need you to set my budget for me to deliver the service. If that budget is set at a low figure then that means less of a service.”

The decision will mean an increase of £1.28 for propoerties in band D.

Councillor Barry Lewis said however that an increase in the precept could harm economic recovery at a local level.

“It impacts upon the most vulnerable people – working council tax payers,” he said.

Cllr Les Allen added: “It will be those at the low end of income who will have to bear the brunt of this.”

Cllr Trevor Southerd commented that the increase was necessary in order to keep Derbyshire residents safe.

He said: “They need protection from what could happen if we don’t provide the correct service.

“People aren’t afraid of another few pence a week, what they are afraid of is a rise of a few pounds.”

Got an opinion on this story? Send your letters to news@matlockmercury.co.uk