'Worrying' north Wales' firefighter cuts posed to save £2m

Image caption The FBU said the threat of the cuts had intensified and the impact across north Wales of the loss of firefighter jobs could be significant

Firefighters face losing their jobs under cost-cutting proposals which could see fire stations shut or downgraded across north Wales.

One engine in Wrexham could be axed and stations downgraded as North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority tries to save almost £2m in 2019-20.

NWFRA is yet to decide on the options which would be put out to public consultation.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it would fight the cuts "wholeheartedly".

Moves to axe Wrexham's engine were put on hold by the previous fire authority, after protests against the plans.

But according to a report to the new authority, the scrapping of the engine - with the loss of 24 firefighter jobs - is one of a number of proposed cuts to services at the authority tries to save £1.8m.

Deeside and Rhyl stations could also be downgraded from 24-hour stations - with a number of roles lost - meaning Wrexham would be the only station in north Wales with firefighters on site 24 hours a day.

It comes after the chief fire officer warned the authority any further cuts in support roles for 999 responses would put firefighters' safety and the services' reputation at risk.

The options, which would be put out to public consultation before a decision is made, include:

  • Removing the second fire engine from Wrexham or changing the hours so it is used to cover the daytime only
  • Changing Deeside and/or Rhyl 24-hour shift stations to day staffing only, with on-call firefighters covering night shifts
  • Closing one or more retained - unstaffed - fire stations
  • Changing one or more manned fire station to on-call (retained) stations
  • Removing the part-time engine from one of the stations in Holyhead, Caernarfon, Bangor, Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Deeside and Wrexham

The worst case scenario - if all the above were to happen - could see 52 firefighters and managers lose their jobs as well as a number of retained (on-call) firefighter roles being cut.

But none of the above may happen if it is decided to increase contributions made by councils to foot the whole of the £1,893,000 shortfall - with each council paying between £180,360 - £398,160 each.

The report warns the authority's "financial sustainability depends" on the savings being made, with the funding gap growing from £900,000 as the last authority used reserves rather than making cuts.

Under the service's safety rules, which set out how many crews should attend a particular incident - known as a predetermined response - two fire engines are needed in the event of a house fire.

Wrexham is the only station in north Wales with three fire engines - two full-time and one part-time engine.

But under the proposals the station could be left with just one full-time engine and may even lose its part-time engine.

FBU representatives are due to meet authority members on Friday to discuss the proposals.

'If, what is proposed by North Wales Fire & Rescue Service goes ahead then this will have a huge impact on the way firefighters respond to incidents," said regional FBU secretary Ceri Griffiths.

"Be in no doubt, these proposals will increase the time it takes the service to respond to incidents like property fires or road traffic collisions and will put lives at risk."

The fire authority said no decision had been made on the proposals which would be discussed by the executive panel on Monday.

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