Shropshire fire chief warns over cuts to commander jobs

Shrewsbury's gas explosion in January 2010. Picture: Linda Bates Firefighters will not be able to tackle more than one major incident at a time, Mr Raymond said

Shropshire's chief fire officer has said the service will not be able to deal with more than one major incident at a time due to budget cuts.

Paul Raymond said that the number of senior fire commanders was to be cut by a quarter.

"Once I've reduced those senior fire commanders by 25%, then we will only be able to deal with one large and one small incident," he said.

The service can currently handle two major incidents at one time.

If the need arose he would have to "borrow" fire commanders from neighbouring services after the budget reductions.

Mr Raymond said the fire service had expected to have its £8m government grant reduced by £3m and had planned accordingly but now it was faced with reducing spending by a further £700,000. The total fire service budget is £21m.

Lack of understanding

Mr Raymond said the reduction in the government's grant to Shropshire was "disappointing" and "surprising" and he needed to speak to the civil servants responsible "to make sure they've got their figures right".

He said the size of the county had not been taken into account. "They understand the figures but they don't necessarily understand the special needs of a county like Shropshire," he said.

The chairman of Shropshire Fire Authority, Stuart West, said it had worked hard to achieve 25% cuts over the next four years, but now it had to reduce spending by 28%.

He promised to ensure the public would still get a "first class fire service".

"We are one of the top performing fire authorities in the country and we want to retain that," he said.

He said community fire safety for the elderly and vulnerable would remain a priority.

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