Norfolk fire services ‘at breaking point’ before future cuts, says union

Lincs Fire & Rescue News.
Lincs Fire & Rescue News.

Front line fire services in Norfolk are already at “breaking point” even before the impact of any future budget cuts is known, union leaders have warned today.

County council departments are currently working on plans for how they would operate if they had to endure a further 25 per cent reduction in funding over the next three years.

The authority has insisted that no decision has been made on how services will be affected, despite suggestions that closing stations or reducing the number of fire appliances could be on the agenda.

But Kevin Game, secretary of the county’s Fire Brigades Union branch, says he can see no alternative to front line cuts if further reductions in funding are imposed.

He estimates the Norfolk brigade had already endured a reduction of up to 15 per cent in its funding over the last five years.

He said: “We’re already the cheapest cost per head brigade in the country. We really have streamlined everything that can be streamlined.

“If there are any further cuts, it will have to be the front line. I just can’t see where else they can get the money from.

“We’re at breaking point now. We’ve been cut to the bone and anything on top of that is going to have a massive impact.”

The future of fire services, along with other sectors including libraries, museums and public health, is set to be discussed at a meeting of the county council’s communities committee on Wednesday, September 9.

Agenda papers ahead of that meeting are expected to be published next week.

But a council spokesman said: “As with all Norfolk County Council services, a review is being undertaken to look into where potential savings can be made as the Council faces a £111m budget gap over three years.

“We need to do this as we are facing continuing cuts in central government funding.

“This is the first stage in the process to address the council’s shortfall. No decisions have been made at this stage.

“There will be an initial discussion about a number of services, including Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, at the Council’s Communities Committee on 9 September.

“The final decision about all service budgets will be taken by Full Council in February after a full public consultation.”

She added: “All departments have been told to provide initial options that would amount to a 25% reduction in their budgets over the next three years.

“It’s up to those departments to decide how they think they can achieve this, and then it will be for councillors to make a final decision next February following a period of public consultation.

“There’s no directive about what departments should or shouldn’t include.”