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Have your say as Torquay fire cover faces the chop - sign our online petition

By Herald Express  |  Posted: January 26, 2013

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Stop The Fire Cuts

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TORQUAY has been given three months to save one of its full-time fire crews from the axe.

The Herald Express has launched a campaign urging the public to get involved in the debate and help stop the potential fire cuts.

Sign our online petition at the foot of this story

The Devon and Somerset Fire Authority wants people to have their say about the future capacity of the service in Torquay.

The proposal on the table is to replace the town's second full-time crew with a part-time or retained one.

Firefighters at the station claim this will mean the town effectively loses or mothballs one of its three 999 engines.

Fire chiefs say they have no choice and need to make £5.5million savings after a huge cut in government funding.

The third engine will still be available at the station if needed, although it is not clear who will man it.

A senior firefighter at the station is backing the Herald Express campaign to send a message to the service and to government that cuts in Torquay are a step too far.

He said: "Our main concern is losing a fire appliance and one crew from the Torquay station as this will result in delays in getting full attendance to incidents in Torquay and across the Bay."

He has been backed by Torbay councillor and Lib Dem leader Steve Darling who says he is 'horrified' by the proposals.

Mayor Gordon Oliver has now agreed to hear the firefighters' concerns at a specially arranged meeting with councillors.

The public consultation on Proposal 10, which is one of 11 contained in a draft corporate plan, will start on Monday and will run until April 22.

Torquay currently has nine full-time firefighters. The cuts will reduce this to five, backed up by the on-call crew.

It is feared areas including Stokeinteignhead, Maidencombe, Wellswood, Lincombes, Rockend, Livermead and those on the periphery of the town will not get a second pump within 13 minutes if this proposal is agreed.

The results of the public consultation will be crucial in determining which way the authority votes at its meeting later in the year.

A strong message of opposition from the people of Torquay could also send a message to government about properly funding the service.

The government grant has been reduced by 10.3 per cent in 2013 and a further 7.3 per cent in 2014, which means it will lose £3.4million in the next financial year and a further £2.1million the following year.

Cllr Mark Healey, chairman of the fire authority, said he will lobby government to ensure a better grant settlement next time, but in the meantime will be keen to listen to staff and the public.

The fire authority, which includes representatives from councils across the two counties, met in Exeter last week to present the proposals.

As well as Torquay, there are plans to change the full-time crewing arrangements in Plymouth and Ilfracombe.

Chief fire officer Lee Howell acknowledged it was a 'difficult paper to present' but thought the on-call crew in Torquay would be able to cope and 'absorb' the calls currently fielded by the full-time crew.

A full-time crew costs the service £1million a year to run while a retained engine costs £100,000, he said.

He said afterwards: "These are difficult times and difficult decisions need to be made. The proposals which have been agreed for public consultation today do not require closure of fire stations, removal of fire engines or compulsory redundancies.

"We aim to maintain or improve public safety by changing the way we do business and by crewing some fire engines differently, but like many other public and private organisations, we do have to operate with less money."

Torbay has two councillors who sit on the authority.

Cllr Derek Mills told the meeting the time for discussion on the issue was at the end of the public consultation.

Cllr Stephen Brookbank, who has already met firefighters to talk about their concerns, said: "They aren't going to make any redundancies and nothing is closing but the most important thing is public safety and I will wait to see what happens with the public consultation."

Torbay Mayor Oliver said: "We are concerned to hear of these cuts and what that will mean for the safety of residents across the Bay and for the fire fighters tasked with providing that safety.

"We will be arranging a suitable meeting for our colleagues in the fire service to come and present to all councillors."

The consultation period will start on 28 January 2013 and end on 22 April 2013.

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9 comments

  • Noblebranch  |  January 30 2013, 7:55PM

    Divisive, disgraceful, and dangerous to impose further cuts to the already dwindling numbers of Whole time Fire fighters at Torquay Fire Station, who provide an immediate 24/7 turnout to a range of incidents, not only in Torquay but across the whole of South Devon and beyond. How quickly and how fickle are those, who praise crews for there magnificent efforts during recent flooding, knowing that in the next few weeks they were to be told their numbers would be halved!!. We cannot and must not let the Proposal to downgrade Torquay station further, happen, how soon are forgotten the terrible fires involving the very sad loss of life and the destruction of whole buildings seen in Torquay in the past year.

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  • Katkins  |  January 29 2013, 9:45PM

    In response to "Othursty1", hopefully I can provide you with some more information which will indeed make you think "Yes, I should sign this petitiion." My husband is a firefighter at Torquay station and I can tell you that they have had their fair share of cutbacks; only 6 years ago Torquay lost 12 firefighters. As it stands Torquay has only 9 firefighters immediately available. They cover a huge geographical area (Torquay and surronding areas) and have, on average, over 1000 shouts a year. I am shocked at the proposal to reduce to firefighters to only 5 available immediatley. Yes there are times when 2 engines are needed at the same time; sometimes on one big incident, sometimes two seperate incidents. Due to the nature of the fire service being an "emergency service" it is difficult to predict how often they are both needed, but they are and will continue to be. I find the proposals to cutbacks on the front line an outrage, especially as they are a 20% cut. Whereas, suprise suprise, the HUGE amount of office staff have been propsed just a 5% cut. There may not be any job loses as such, but losing over half the firefighters at Torquay sation will have a massive effect of the publics safety.

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  • Noblebranch  |  January 27 2013, 6:26PM

    ''Fire Service or Funeral Service'' this is the stark reality of removing more fire cover from Torquay. Support Local Fire-fighters in their campaign to get these proposed cuts overturned, for the sake of us all. Public Consultation runs from the 28/1/13 until 22/4/13, please make your voices heard.

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  • Ch1mp  |  January 25 2013, 10:55PM

    It seems wrong that when Torquay's population is larger than before, we're being told we need less firemen than before, and only one full time engine. Surely fires in hotels, blocks of flats etc need 2 engines ASAP - lives are at stake and every minute counts - and also a 2nd separate fire or traffic accident while a 1st one is in progress must happen fairly often.

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  • sparro  |  January 25 2013, 4:54PM

    @ Othursty1. I hope you do not have a fire/accident when, the first crew are out, on another job. Any cuts are bad & we need all our fire crews, lives will be lost, you mark my words

    Rate   4
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  • Othursty1  |  January 25 2013, 12:13PM

    There is nothing in this article that makes me think 'Yes - I should sign this petition!'. There is no information that allows me to make informed decision on the matter. For instance, how many 'call-out's' are there per year where only 1 engine is required, where 2 are required and where 3 are required? How many times are all three out at the same time but not at the same job? In which months are all three out together? - if it's the summer months and not the winter months then why not just cut during the winter (a bit like the tourist industry). Is it just night time where all three are not requried? If you provide this information then I can decide whether I should sign or not this petition. For the Coastguard station the message was clear 'kill the Brixham station and local knowledge is lost and this means time is lost to reaching the rescue scene'. But here it just says 'this will save money - there will be no job loses, we believe this cut is in a reasonable area and will not effect front line services' - and I have to say the way it is written I can only agree with the cut-back. This is a case of: Paper - 'Sign my petition' Public - 'Why' Paper - 'I don't know really' Public - 'Give me one good reason to right your petition' Paper - 'Well ...... I guess I will look good and sell more papers'. I'm not against this petition - I just can't see why I should sign it until the HE gives a reason to sign it. HE, you did a good job for the Coastguard station - do the same here.

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  • wenvoe444  |  January 25 2013, 12:11PM

    Thoughts of cutting any such vital services are downright disgusting. There have been so many reports of arson attacks recently and road accidents are common. First on the scene? Our wonderful Fire Brigade. I salute them and their life saving machines - we need MORE not less.

    Rate   9
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  • SidneyNuff  |  January 25 2013, 9:48AM

    I live in a glass house, so fire doesn't worry me.

    Rate   -8
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  • nickthompson  |  January 24 2013, 10:42AM

    "The third engine will still be available at the station if needed, although it is not clear who will man it" --------------------Might I suggest 4, or 5 oap's from the nearest old folks home,or perhaps we should disband our Fire and Recue service,insurance companies would bear the cost of re-building property, if you get trapped in a road accident, or machinery bad luck lives cost nothing,the average band d council tax payer would be £1.40 a week better off,very nearly a half pint of beer.!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Rate   6
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