Fears over future of Glossop fire service
Thursday 15th December 2016 21:51 Derbyshire Glossop Chronicle News Posted by Adam Higgins

Glossop firefighters fear the need to slash £1.6m from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service’s budget over the next four years could hit the town hard.

They say Glossop and Matlock have been identified as fire stations where a review of duty systems will be undertaken – and they worry for the town’s safety if that happens.

Firefighters Union Glossop branch representative Rob Barber sees the worst scenario as the Whitfield Park station losing seven of its 13 firefighters.

Now they are calling on the people of Glossopdale to make their feelings about the proposed changes known to Derbyshire fire chiefs.

He said: “There are significant system changes planned and, in that capacity, management have highlighted Glossop and Matlock as brigades to restructure.

“It’s looking like the plans are to alter the way Glossop is staffed, which may or may not mean that the standard of fire service is reduced,  the length of time it takes to get to every fire will be downgraded, or even a fire engine may not be sent out at all.

“I can’t say whether it will or will not happen, but it’s down to the public to put pressure on management.

“We are encouraging them to ask the question through the [Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service’s] consultation.”

Last week, Rob met the union secretary for lengthy discussions over what Glossop fire station’s position is likely to be.

He said: “We decided to start informing relevant members of the public what’s going on and ask them to ask the fire service what it will mean for them.

“We want people to ask the chief if the fire service is going to be downgraded to a reduced service in Glossop.

“I’m going to speak to businesses, parish councils, councillors and members of the public to inform them and urge them to get hold of the brigade and ask question too.”

Derbyshire have already saved £6.9m since 2012.

The further £1.6m includes £600,000 from frontline operations.

The fears stem from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Draft Integrated Risk Management Plan, a Government requirement, for all brigades.

In a statement to the Chronicle, DFRS say within the plan are five service development themes which will allow them to focus its priorities.

It added: “Year 1 of the plan proposes a review of staffing levels, duty system and ways of working, at Matlock and Glossop fire stations.

“The review will provide options for change that will require full public and staff consultation before the Fire and Rescue Authority can decide on any changes to the affected stations.

“There will still be a fire station and fire engines in Glossop and Matlock, but the way that the fire engines are crewed will be under review.

“The Service will look at the resources that it has and the savings we need to make to ensure that resources are matched to risk in each area, ensuring community safety remains a key factor in all decisions.”

Although losing seven firefighters could be seen as negotiable, Glossop’s watches are worried if did happen they wouldn’t be able to provide a robust level of service for the town with a slimline operation.

Rob says the only solution would be to introduce a new system to provide cover during the night – when it’s needed most – but admitted it still wouldn’t be entirely sufficient.

He said: “In some of the busy areas of the county like Derby and Chesterfield, they have four watches but in Glossop, we have two watches which provide 96 hours of cover a week by doing four days of work and at night we are on call based in the houses in Whitfield Park.

“It’s worked for the fire service for the last 50 years to provide a suitable level of fire cover. It will be almost impossible without a retained element at night. They rolled it out in Swadlincote, in the south of the county, and they’ve had tremendous problems with it due to staffing.

“From January to the present day they have been without adequate cover and a fire engine for 300 hours which is a lot.

“The only way they could manage it is bringing the retained duty system at night which allows you to book on and off and you are guaranteed the attendance of a fire engine but even that has its shortcomings.

“They had significant gaps in the fire cover at night but brought in the retained duty system where we have two fire engines at Glossop – the first which is manned by staffed personnel and the other is used by fire fighters who have normal jobs who help us respond to incidents.

“At night they may make both engines available for staffed personnel. But this takes longer to mobilise and it’s not guaranteed to be available at the time.

“That’s what they’ve done at Swadlincote and we fear that those problems could be repeated here in Glossop.

Rob added: “Statistically, we do receive more calls during daylight hours but the life-threatening incidents happen at night as they take longer to be detected.

“Brigade management are reluctant to use the word ‘cuts’ – it’s always about restructuring and how to manage budgets.

“I can’t say whether it will or will not happen but it’s down to the public to put pressure on management. We are encouraging them to ask the question through the consultation.”

With a public consultation open for comment until January 30 on its draft spending, Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Terry McDermott said DFRS and its workforce face ‘some challenging times ahead’.

If you would like to express your views on the future of the fire service, visit the DFRS website at www.derbys-fire.gov.uk to take part in the consultation before January 30.