FRONTLINE fire services in Hampshire are under threat for the first time as bosses bid to plug a £12million budget black hole, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Bosses have launched a review in a bid to plug a £12million budget black hole, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Firefighter jobs, fire stations and equipment – including fire engines – are all in the sights of a radical root and branch review which will herald some of the biggest round of cuts Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has ever faced.
Downsizing fire trucks is among options currently being explored.
Union leaders have warned that public and crew safety could be put at risk by cuts.
Hampshire Fire Authority boss Cllr Royston Smith has vowed no station will close and frontline service quality would be maintained – but when asked whether jobs would be lost he did not deny it.
He said: “To close the gap we will look at the options which will make sure that Hampshire communities are as safe as they are now and if not safer – for the best possible value.”
Cllr Royston Smith
The review comes as the Government forecast to slash their grant by £9.9million by 2017 which has opened up a huge hole of £12million in the budget.
More than £7million can be saved by a range of measures already under way, including merging back office functions with Hampshire police and the county council.
But with £5million of savings still needed, bosses are considering making huge savings from its fire service operations.
Dave Curry, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s director of service delivery, said: “The aim of this review will be to focus our resources in the area of greatest risk and deliver the best value services to the public.
“This review will encompass all aspects of the service’s work, from the response we provide to incidents, to our work in improving people’s safety in their homes, work places and communities.
“While this review is only just under way, it is likely to lead to changes in the way we deliver our services in the future and so our staff and our communities will be fully consulted over any proposals.”
Staff affected by the review will be consulted in the coming months, while a public consultation exercise will be carried out in the autumn, with the cuts made from next year.
Peter Bates, of Hampshire Fire Brigade Union which represents about 700 uniformed staff in the county, said: “We are concerned about austerity measures that are being imposed nationally. These have reached Hampshire on a local level.
“We will be looking at this from multiple angles – one is the safety of the public and our members’ jobs and safety which could be compromised by crew levels.
“My concern now would be if there’s a lot of money to be saved that we have now cut all the meat to the bone without looking at reducing engines or personnel.
“We have made efficiency savings already and fire stations are more often or not running on minimal levels of crew and we would be concerned if those levels reduced any lower.”