South West Wales

Llanelli firefighter numbers could be cut

The number of firefighters in Llanelli could be cut, which has led to protests that lives could be at risk.

Mid and West Wales Fire Authority has agreed to look at the controversial changes, but no decisions have yet been taken.

Chief fire officer Richard Smith said there had been a misconception that numbers in the Carmarthenshire town could fall from 28 to 13.

Opponents protested outside County Hall in Carmarthen on Monday.

The fire authority will look at an option to reduce the number of staff and change the way they work, but only on the proviso that there is more consultation and scrutiny with trade unions and with firefighters working on the ground.

At the moment in Llanelli, there are 28 firefighters with five on duty at any one time.

Under the fire authority proposals, a reduced number of firefighters could be expected to work more flexible shifts and be on call for stand-by duty at night as well.

But Mr Smith said firefighter numbers at Llanelli would not fall from 28 to 13.

He said: "The number 13 has come from a crewing system that we introduced at another fire station at Pontardawe.

"I think there's been a misconception with the public that we were intending to just implement those plans at Llanelli.

"Quite clearly Llanelli is a different area to Pontardawe. We need to ensure the crewing arrangements reflect the risk of the area as well."

'Explore option'

Objectors are concerned that lives could be put at risk, and they claim the 28 firefighters currently on duty in Llanelli are needed.

More than 6,000 people have signed a petition.

Mr Smith said he understood concerns and it was never the intention to implement a system without fully consulting the staff.

He said: "What we're not saying is that we're going to halve the number of staff.

Image caption Chief fire officer Richard Smith said there would be no changes to the service at Llanelli fire station

"What we're saying is that we're going to explore options to make a more effective and efficient use of the staff that we've got."

He added: "What I can guarantee the residents of Llanelli that there will be no changes at all to the service that is delivered from that fire station.

"There will be no changes to the fire engines available. There will be no changes to the amount of firefighters there to crew the fire engines, and there will be no changes to the 24-hour cover arrangements as well."

Mr Smith said the fire service was not "immune from the financial situation that is affecting the whole of the public sector".

In June, campaigners staged a protest march and rally against the proposed cuts at Llanelli and in August handed a petition to the chief fire officer.

In July, Mid and West Wales Fire Service was criticised over plans to switch 21 full-time firefighters in Powys to community safety work, replacing them on emergency duties with volunteer crews.

Last week the North Wales Fire Authority approved plans to cut up to 36 firefighter jobs by changing rotas in an attempt to save £1m by spring 2013.

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