Cheshire Fire Service cuts 'will cost lives', union warns

Cheshire Fire HQ
Image caption Cheshire Fire Service's Winsford headquarters would be sold under the plans

"Preventable deaths will increase" as a result of fire service budget cuts, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned.

Tasked with saving £3.8m by 2020, Cheshire Fire Service wants to change staffing arrangements and reduce one of its three aerial appliances.

The FBU says the changes will mean full-time firefighters are replaced with on-call staff and that incident response times will increase.

Managers insist they will "continue to deliver a high quality service".

Under proposals scheduled to be implemented in April, staffing arrangements will be changed at stations in Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Birchwood and Penketh.

Andrew Fox-Hewitt, from FBU Cheshire, said: "If you cut the number of full-time firefighters and appliances, you will see an increase in attendance times.

"This will ultimately lead to an increase in preventable injuries and deaths."

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said the service was "exceeding" its response targets and it has continued to recruit on-call firefighters - taking on a further 18 whole-time firefighters last year.

"We aim to get to all 'life risk' incidents, namely road traffic collisions or house fires, where there is a person reported as being in the property within 10 minutes on 80% of occasions - a target we are currently exceeding by 8%."

It said its average response time to such incidents is under eight minutes which has "remained the same for the past five years".

The service said it has kept its pledge of making no firefighters redundant, instead the reduction in full-time posts has happened naturally, as people have left or retired.