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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Fire crews sound the alarm on service cuts at Ulverston meeting

FIREFIGHTERS battling to prevent cuts in the service told a public meeting in Ulverston the service was already “down to the bone”.

A number of the town’s retained firefighters attended Ulverston Town Council’s meeting on Monday night and spoke candidly about their fears over Cumbria County Council’s proposed cuts to the fire service.

Backed by a number of councillors and members of the public, the firefighters addressed Adrian Buckle, Cumbria’s assistant chief fire officer, and Councillor Barry Doughty, the council’s portfolio holder for safer and stronger communities.

Under proposals to save £24m across all services, the council has proposed moving a fire crew from Barrow to Ulverston – leaving one crew based permanently in Barrow – and closing Dalton station.

Ulverston would lose one of its two retained fire engines and six of its on-call firefighters. Ian Shaw, watch manager at Ulverston, told the meeting: “In my opinion, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Have you looked at every single aspect of saving money?

“We’re absolutely down to the bone as it is – Barrow is right down to the bare minimum. We’re just on an absolute shoestring and if we’ve got to make cuts in Cumbria, make them elsewhere, don’t make them on the front line.” Paul Johnson, Ulverston crew manager, asked for reassurances over timings between Ulverston and Barrow should incidents overlap.

Speaking from the public seats, Peter Hanks claimed: “If the numbers are reduced and the number of appliances are reduced for major incidents, you’re not covering and you’re paying for it – not with money, but with lives.”

Mr Buckle said the proposals were not being taken lightly, but he was sure they would be effective. He said: “I’m well aware of the ‘what if’ scenarios. But in Cumbria, we average one incident every two hours, so to have ones simultaneously in Barrow and Ulverston is very unlikely. The demand for our reactive services is decreasing, whereas in other parts of the council, the demand for services is increasing – and that’s the environment we’re working in.”

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