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Union fears Norfolk fire service cuts

PUBLISHED: 06:30 08 February 2010 | UPDATED: 07:59 02 July 2010

Union chiefs say a proposed overhaul of the fire service will put lives at risk.

Union chiefs say a proposed overhaul of the fire service will put lives at risk.

Shaun Lowthorpe

Fire bosses in Norfolk are planning an overhaul of the service, aimed at saving £1.5m and boosting rural cover - amid union claims it will see public safety put at risk and the loss of 63 jobs.

Fire bosses in Norfolk are planning an overhaul of the service, aimed at saving £1.5m and boosting rural cover - amid union claims it will see public safety put at risk and 63 jobs lost.

A confidential report seen by the Evening News shows that modernisation plans for 2011-14 could include cutting fire cover at Norwich's new Carrow fire station, which has yet to open on the edge of the city in Trowse, and reducing the number of whole-time crews at Great Yarmouth. Meanwhile, the retained crew at Gorleston could be replaced by a full-time crew.

The plans could also see a switch to smaller second fire engines at Cromer, Dereham, Diss, Fakenham, Sandringham, and Wymondham.

They also include proposals to scrap or relax the response times for second appliances to non-emergency call-outs, such as small rubbish fires, and minor road accidents, and changing shift patterns to a "five watch" system, following the lead of Greater Manchester, which aims to match cover to actual demand rather than having firefighters sitting around.

Jamie Wyatt, Norfolk FBU brigade secretary, said the union believed that in reality the plans could see the loss of eight frontline fire engines, with numbers halved at some stations, and 63 job losses.

Mike McCarthy, deputy chief fire officer, said: "We are not looking to compromise our fire cover or our emergency cover at all. These are initial proposals; we are in the first stage of the process and it's got to go to a review panel and cabinet and then out to public consultation."

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