Firefighters in Northamptonshire edge a step closer to strike action over £500k cuts

Senior union member in the Northamptonshire branch of the Fire Brigades Union are open to the possibility of industrial action, its secretary says.
Senior union member in the Northamptonshire branch of the Fire Brigades Union are open to the possibility of industrial action, its secretary says.

Senior firefighters are reportedly open to the possibility of taking industrial action in Northamptonshire after proposals to lose a further 25 full-time staff emerged.

On Friday, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) hosted an emergency summit of members at Moulton Fire Station to discuss what action to take over £500,000 of planned cuts that will need to be made in this financial year.

One proposal to save 500,000 in this year's budget is to axe 20 to 25 firefighters.

One proposal to save 500,000 in this year's budget is to axe 20 to 25 firefighters.

The first proposal fire and rescue chiefs have floated is to cut between 20 and 25 full-time posts - which would effectively reduce the number of firefighters on a crewed fire engine from five to four.

Ben Muddle, the secretary of the Northamptonshire FBU branch, believes this will make attending fires far more dangerous as health and safety guidelines recommend five crew members attend scenes in a single vehicle.

The union members were asked to consider holding a ballot for industrial action at the summit.

Mr Muddle said: "We had a very positive committee meeting and we did discuss the possibility of industrial action and the various forms it comes in.

"We discussed preparing the membership for a ballot.

"The option for it is there on the table - if we need to protect the safety of our firefighters we will.

"The committee feeling is we are not adverse to using industrial action."

Mr Muddle said, after successive cuts in recent years, the fire service in Northamptonshire has been left on a "precipice".

He believes the fire service has been "cut to the bone" over recent years - and as such the further £500,000 saving needed before the next financial year will be difficult to achieve, whatever the proposal.

His personal opinion is that the management of Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue should look at reducing the retained - or part-time - fire service, before considering axing 20 to 25 full-time roles.

Often, when part-time firefighters are not available, full-time officers are asked to step into the breach - and are paid overtime to do so.

Last week, the county council said yesterday it could not comment on the FBU’s concerns as it is in an election campaign period.

Andre Gonzalez De Savage, the Conservative cabinet member with responsibility for the fire and rescue service in Northamptonshire when the long-term saving plan for the service was drawn up, also declined to comment due to the ongoing nature of the review.