FIFE Fire and Rescue Service is facing a massive 18 per cent cut in funding over the next four years - the largest in Scotland - and union leaders have now expressed fears over public safety.
Chairman of the FBU in the Kingdom, Graeme Birtley, has issued a stark warning that the service’s senior officers are being asked to “do the impossible.”
The Scottish Government’s outline business case shows plans to reduce the Fife service’s budget by 16 per cent over the next four years.
And, in another blow this week, the Fife union has learned that Fife Council has asked for an additional 0.5 per cent in savings per annum over the same period.
Mr Birtley said: ”The risk to the people of Fife has not changed, yet we understand that station closures, reductions in firefighter numbers and downgrading of fire cover are all being considered simply to make financial savings with no consideration of the risk to the public or measurable professional judgement.”
According to Mr Birtley, owing to a two per cent cut to the budget since 2005, Fife does not have enough crews to staff all the appliances and firefighters have been removed from the frontline to undertake administration work.
He has also pointed out that the Fife service is “struggling” to maintain a line rescue function at Lochgelly Fire Station, has transferred highly-skilled firefighters to other fire and rescue services to avoid redundancy and now takes longer to respond to incidents in villages in West Fife than it did two years ago.
Mr Birtley added: ”This means that Fife will be making a total of 18 per cent in cuts over the next four years, the highest in the country compared to the other seven fire services, and on top of the two per cent cut per year since 2005.”
One north east Fife fireman said: ”There are real worries in the Kingdom for the service and no areas will escape the cuts.”
It is understood that changes in shift patterns are among the parts of the service under consideration for change, while administration is also coming under scrutiny in a bid to reduce spending.
According to figures obtained by the FBU in Fife, during the 12 months to March 31, 2011, the number of wholetime firefighters fell by 16 to 361 through recruitment freezes, retirements, and people leaving but not being replaced.
Roddy Robertson, executive council member of the FBU Scotland, added: ”What is currently happening in Fife shows why there is a need for reform of the service and why that reform needs to happen now and not later.
“We have been given public assurances that the front line will not be touched, yet we have seen the loss of nearly 300 firefighters posts across Scotland in the last two years and now we are facing meltdown in our vital services.
‘‘This cannot be allowed to continue.”