Felixstowe: Full-time fire cover to remain

FELIXSTOWE/SUFFOLK: Full time firefighters are to remain on duty at the town’s fire station until at least 2014.

The county council’s cabinet has approved fire service Integrated Risk Management Plan for the next three years which was amended to say that full-time firefighters should remain at Felixstowe during normal working days until at least 2014 – and should not be pulled out without further consultation.

The chairman of Suffolk Fire Brigades Union Andy Vingoe had early addressed the meeting after two petitions were handed to the county council – one from Star readers and one which had been collected by members of the FBU.

Mr Vingoe told the meeting: “People were queuing in the street to sign our petition and fill in the response forms.”

He was concerned about a change in targets – previously the service was expected to attend fires within 20 minutes which it did 96 per cent of the time.

Now it is due to attend 80pc of incidents within 11 minutes – but Mr Vingoe said he was concerned about the 20pc of cases when the fire appliance did not reach the incident within 11 minutes.

He said: “What is the backstop? On the 20pc of occasions when we don’t get there that quickly, how long can we take?”

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Labour group leader Sandy Martin urged the fire service to adopt two targets – one for attendance within 11 minutes and another for the 20-minute limit.

Chief fire officer Andy Fry said the service was not changing its response times. He said: “We have a comprehensive monitoring system to ensure we are reach incidents as quickly as possible.”

Public protection portfolio holder Colin Spence said the fire service should look at the possibility of becoming a stand-alone authority, separate from the county council.

This was the situation in areas of the country where there were unitary authorities or a mixture of county and unitary councils – including Essex and Cambridgeshire.

However it would require legislation before it could happen in a shire county like Suffolk.

Mr Spence said the fire service’s budget of �25 million was relatively small for the county council and he said it did not reflect the importance of the service to the general public.

“It was a real problem to get across that what we were competing with was children’s services, adult care services, roads, transport, and libraries.”

Are you happy with the fire service changes? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk