Axe for firefighters to go even deeper

MAYOR Mike Deacon was spot on when he described the cuts to Felixstowe’s full-time firefighters as bad news for the town.

It was a terrible decision that will put people involved in 999 incidents in even more danger with a 68 per cent increase in response times in situations where minutes can mean the difference between life and death.

And all to save �140,000 a year – just 0.014 per cent of the county council’s �1 billion a year budget.

It beggars belief that such a small amount of money could not be saved elsewhere in such a massive organisation, from other efficiencies, and avoiding cuts in frontline services.

Every household across the county is cutting back on its spending in this time of austerity – including cutting down on electricity and gas usage, buying cheaper food and household items, doing deals and looking for bargains, not driving to cut fuel use, and missing holidays, treats and other luxuries.

It would be nice to be assured that the county council is doing the same on behalf of taxpayers.

Instead, Felixstowe – a town set to grow by around 2,000 households in the next few years – has seen its fire service cut, and this time next year we will be having public consultation on proposals to get rid of all the resort’s full-time firefighters.

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No one doubts the ability and commitment of the on-call fire crews, who do a fantastic job, turning out for emergencies 24-hours a day at weekends and also throughout the evenings and nights.

They also provide a superb service in being the second crew to support the full-timers at incidents during the day.

The county council’s statistics are very persuasive. The on-call crews attend the majority of fires, crashes and other incidents – and senior officers are confident cover would be adequate to meet the risk.

But there is no substitute for a full-time service, able to respond immediately to an incident. Last year we saw how the availability of full-time crews meant that a row of homes was saved when a lightning bolt struck a house in Alexandra Road. Any delay could have meant a very different outcome.

It is, of course, the great unknown – an unpredictable science because every incident is different. We all just have to hope Mr Deacon’s fear that it could be a decision the town lives to regret does not come true.