Fire service cuts warning in Mid and West Wales

Rural response pump
Image caption Mid and West Fire Service said no decisions have been made

The public's safety could be at risk if some fire stations in mid and west Wales close and full-time firefighters are replaced by on-call crews, the Fire Brigades Union has warned.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service needs to save £2.6m next year and a further £1.5m in 2015/16.

Plans include closing fire stations at Knighton, Montgomery, Cymmer, Pontyates, Pontarddulais and Gowerton.

But the service said no decisions have been made and there are other options.

Mid and West Wales (MAWW) covers Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys.

The options for cuts presented by fire chiefs at a meeting last week are:

  • Closing Knighton, Montgomery, Pontyates and Cymmer fire stations
  • Closing Pontarddulais and Gorseinon fire stations and replacing them with one new fire station
  • Removing full-time firefighters from Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven and Ammanford fire stations and replacing them with part-time cover
  • Downgrading Morriston, Port Talbot and Neath fire stations from 24-hour shift stations to day-crewed stations
  • Changing to the crewing system at Swansea Central and Swansea West fire stations from 24-hour shift stations to a self-rostered crewing arrangement
  • Merging Swansea command area with Neath Port Talbot and combining Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion into another

The service blames the savings on UK Treasury funding cuts passed onto local authorities by the Welsh government.

On-call service

Barrie Davies, union secretary for Mid and West Wales said: "These cuts will put the lives of the public and firefighters at risk.

"Our service has been cut every year for the last 10 years, and yet again it's the front line which will bear the brunt."

Councillor Callum Higgins, a fire authority member, also warned the cuts could have an impact on response times.

"It's not actually the cut from full time to part time that's the worry. It's the change from full time on station to on-call.

"On-call means you have an extra five minutes when a fire fighter comes from his home to the fire engine. That is an increase in the response time and that has a direct effect on the risk to the community."

Mr Higgins said he would prefer to make savings by losing assistant chief officers or amalgamating county commands as Dyfed-Powys Police have done.

A statement from MAWW said the "severe financial challenges" have been outlined to fire authority members but no decisions have been made.

It added: "As part of the strategic planning day, members of the fire authority were presented with a number of potential strategic options for their consideration that could go some way to realising the required savings.

"No decisions have been made.

"It is the responsibility of the Fire Authority, advised by the chief fire officer and treasurer to the authority, as to the budget requirement for 2014/15."

It said the authority would consider the budget in December.

Similar proposals to downgrade stations and replace full-time firefighters with on-call crews were made earlier this year by South Wales Fire Service.

And two years ago, North Wales Fire Service announced up to 36 jobs would be cut by this year in a bid to save £1m.

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