Devon and Somerset Fire Service facing £5m budget cuts

Devon and Somerset fire engines Reducing the number of fire engines and closing stations would be a last resort, a source has said

Devon and Somerset Fire Service is facing millions of pounds of budget cuts, according to a leaked document.

The internal email was written by Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell.

Referring to a cut in the government grant settlement for 2013/14 and 2014/15, Mr Howell said the service will have to save £5.5m.

The service has declined to comment, but the Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) fears stations may close and the number of fire engines could be reduced.

Under the proposals three Plymouth fire engines, at Plympton, Plymstock, and Camel's Head, would be crewed on call rather than full-time.

The city's aerial ladder platform would also be crewed on an on-call basis.

Ilfracombe's fire station faces being cut from day-crewed to on call.

Torquay's second fire engine would also be cut from full time to on call, as would the second fire engine in Taunton.

The proposals are going out to public consultation before a decision in February.

Politically difficult

The email, obtained by the BBC, outlines how the money the service receives from the government will be reduced by 10.3% in 2013/14 and by a further 7.3% in 2014/15.

"This means that we will need to save £3.4m in the next financial year and £2.1m in the following year," Mr Howell's email said.

It does not outline how the savings will be found, but the BBC understands managers are working on a series of proposals.

The FBU said it feared services would inevitably suffer and has promised to fight the cuts.

A senior source at Devon and Somerset Fire Service said everything had to be on the agenda when it was facing such a difficult financial situation.

However, it would be a last resort to close fire stations and cut the number of fire engines.

That would be extremely unpopular with the public, and politically very difficult to deal with, managers told the BBC, adding nothing would be implemented which could in any way endanger public safety.

Devon and Somerset Fire Authority will decide how it believes the savings should be made at its meeting on Friday 18th January and a 12-week public consultation will follow.

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