Fire Brigades Union sounds fears over removal of third on-call fire engine from Ipswich East station

Fire station in Princes Street, lpswich

Fire station in Princes Street, lpswich

The Suffolk Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has expressed serious concerns over the removal of Ipswich’s third on-call fire engine from Ipswich East next week, as part of cuts by Suffolk County Council.

On Tuesday, the third on-call fire engine will be removed from the Ransomes-based station, leaving one full time and one on-call crew based at the station.

The engine’s removal is the third of four planned cuts to the service, following the loss of one full-time crewed vehicle from Princes Street in August and the third on-call fire engine at Lowestoft South Station.

A fourth is planned to be removed from Bury St Edmunds in the next few months.

But the Suffolk branch of the FBU has warned that losing the fire engines can only have a detrimental impact to Suffolk Fire and Rescue’s ability to respond to emergencies.

“This is the third we have lost from the IRMP [Integrated Risk Management Plan], so that’s not good news,” said Suffolk branch chairman Phil Johnston.

“The cuts being forced upon us from the government, from austerity measures and cuts to public services we are all suffering are certainly not going to be beneficial to the people of Suffolk.

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“Any loss is going to have a negative affect – it’s certainly not going to improve any fire coverage in the county so we are disappointed to see any of the cuts.”

The decision was made by the county council’s cabinet in May following a 14-week consultation.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s assistant chief fire officer Dan Fearn said: “The intention has been to ensure that the approved changes take place in a progressive and staged manner.”

He added: “Reductions in staff will be managed through normal workforce turnover. There will be no fire station closures or firefighter redundancies in Suffolk and officers will continue to work with staff and trade unions during this transition. Our focus remains firmly on providing a good emergency service for the people of Suffolk.”

The union also raised concerns over how it would affect the fire service’s response times.

Current response standards require a first fire engine to attend a fire within 11 minutes, response to a road traffic collision within 13 minutes, and a second fire engine to a fire within 16 minutes, on 80% of its calls.

However, Mr Johnston said Suffolk is already struggling to meet those targets, and further fire cuts would make those worse.

“Normally the standards are met 70-80% of the time, but the reason they are at that level is because of the full time fire engines which respond more often to the other ones [on call], so that keeps the standards up,” he said, adding that existing cuts to full-time crews and reduced availability of on-call fire engines would hit those standards.

Mr Fearn said that it would monitor the response times closely over the transition period and beyond.

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