Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

June 28, 2011 07:28 ET

Promises Broken-Suffolk Fire Service Response to 999 Calls to Change

SUFFOLK, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - June 28, 2011) - Plans to transfer all Suffolk's 999 fire service calls to Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire will in fact mean changes in the fire service response to 999 calls for emergencies in Suffolk. This is despite promises to the contrary made only a matter of weeks ago.

Suffolk FBU are calling on Suffolk County Council Leader, Mark Bee, to apply the same approach to the Fire Service as he announced for other important public services in Suffolk. Upon his recent election victory as Leader, Councillor Bee announced that on Suffolk's libraries:

"Our thinking has evolved…it will not be about closing libraries but about exploring every available opportunity to keep them open." On Suffolk's Household Waste Recycling Centres he said: "We are revisiting that issue. And our approach has changed. We are no longer focused on closure – it is now about how we can work with communities to keep open as many centres as possible."

Suffolk FBU are calling for Councillor Bee to intervene in the same way for Suffolk's fire & rescue services before it's too late.

Andy Vingoe, Suffolk FBU:

"We urge Councillor Bee to ask the Council to take a fresh look at the untried and untested plans being rushed through next month that will see the closure of Suffolk's emergency fire control centre at Ipswich. It will mean all Suffolk's 999 calls and emergency response operations being transferred to Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire."

When the controversial plans were first given the go-ahead, Suffolk councillors were given assurances that 999 services for the people of Suffolk would not be changed or compromised and so there was no need for any public consultation. Assurances were also given that 999 responses to Suffolk calls would not be compromised by the lack of local knowledge and experience because eight of Suffolk's current emergency fire control staff would be taken on by Cambridgeshire to work for Cambridgeshire.

But at a meeting on 27 June it was revealed that current fire engine response standards in Suffolk will be changed to fit the systems used in Cambridgeshire. This means without any prior public or council say so, the current fire and rescue response for 999 calls in Suffolk will be changed. It also seems Cambridgeshire's fire chiefs are planning to make the Suffolk emergency fire control staff redundant prior to recruiting to fill the eight additional posts, thus making it unlikely that the jobs would go to the current Suffolk control staff.

Andy Vingoe:

"With the point of no return only four weeks away, the hidden problems and detailed arrangements associated with this cost-cutting experiment are now being revealed. As frontline professionals we are becoming very, very concerned. Our normal response to emergency calls in Suffolk will change by stealth and without any of us in Suffolk being told this was going to happen. Also, to keep staffing costs to a minimum.

Cambridgeshire's managers have also revealed they are willing to risk cutting the combined control staffing levels leaving too few fire control staff on duty at any one time to receive fire calls, to mobilise the necessary fire engines and then to support the fire crews whilst attending emergencies. We have serious professional doubts as to whether their proposed minimum of only four fire control staff will be enough to properly monitor two separate radio schemes, two separate fire crew availability systems, two separate officer duty systems and cope with all the emergency fire calls for two counties."

"These details are being revealed at the eleventh-hour and it seems it is Cambridgeshire's management who are calling the shots in the so-called partnership, which may mean the tax payers of Suffolk receiving a second class service and potentially footing the bill for an unfair share of the service. When the original decision was taken to close and transfer Suffolk's emergency fire control, Councillors were told there was no need for public consultation because public safety would not be adversely affected. It seems that has all changed and so we urge Councillor Bee to intervene and to ask the Council to stop and think again before it's too late."

Contact Information

  • Media Contacts
    Andy Vingoe
    07967 041039

    Adrian Clarke
    07917 017713