Norwich MP’s fears over fire service cuts

A Norwich MP has spoken of her concerns over proposed changes to Norfolk's fire and rescue service in a bid to cut �1.5m from the budget.

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, said she had been in touch with local firefighters and had visited Sprowston and Bethel Street fire stations.

She said she had also met then-acting chief fire officer Mike McCarthy, and Harry Humphrey, county council cabinet member for fire and rescue to put questions to them raised by firefighters.

Miss Smith, pictured below, said: 'When I did that, I said quite clearly that people do value their fire service and don't want to see firefighters put at risk.

'I'm nervous about the proposed reduction in fire engines for the city because I wouldn't want any wrong decisions to be made. If the data behind this decision turns out to be incorrect or changes then I would hope any decision could be reviewed.'

Norfolk County Council's proposals include cutting the number of crews in Norwich from five to four when the Bethel Street station is replaced by the new Carrow Station in Trowse in 2011. A full-time crew will be shifted from Yarmouth to Gorleston to replace retained cover there.

The Norfolk Branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has contacted eight of the county's nine MPs, urging them to visit their local fire stations to speak to firefighters to discover the 'real truth' behind the cuts, which the union claims will put public safety at risk.

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FBU brigade chairman Pete Greeves wrote: 'With these cuts we will be forced to unnecessarily risk our lives a lot more often to do what we joined to do, to save lives and help people. Before it comes to that please help your firefighters… All we are asking for is the correct tools to do our job and ensure that Norfolk, residents, visitors and your firefighters remain safe.'

Norfolk County Council's cabinet is due to meet on October 11, but Mr Greeves wrote: 'I fear, along with my firefighter colleagues, that the decisions have already been made and this meeting is just a formality and these cuts will just be rubber-stamped.'

The email also continued the results of national survey commissioned by the FBU and carried out by YouGov which found 82pc of people questioned were satisfied with their local fire and rescue service, and 85pc opposed plans to cut funding.

Mr Greeves said the majority of MPs had not taken up his offer so far.

Nigel Williams, chief fire officer for Norfolk, said: 'Our draft safety plan has been drawn up following a wide-ranging consultation, the most comprehensive ever carried out by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Authority, and reflects the fact that our service is looking to change some of the ways we deliver services to our communities.

'In light of our successful continuing prevention work, which is reducing the number of fires in Norfolk and other emergencies, it makes perfect sense to take a fresh look at the way we work.

'The safety of the public is at the heart of everything we do and that won't change.

'I believe the proposals, which will go before cabinet in October, will help us continue to move in the right direction. We have no intention of compromising either public or firefighter safety.'

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