An ‘impossible’ task is ahead of Fife’s firefighters as the region’s Fire and Rescue Service faces another 18 per cent of cuts to its budget over the next four years, it has been claimed.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) raised concerns over the figures fearing for the impact on front line services and public safety.
It says cuts to the budget of two per cent each year for the past five years have already had an impact with the service not having enough firefighters to staff all appliances and some firefighters being removed from the frontline to administrative roles.
It also says the service is now taking longer to respond to incidents, particularly in the west Fife villages.
Graeme Birtley, chairman of the FBU in Fife, said: “The service’s senior officers are being asked to do the impossible.
“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.”
The Scottish Government’s outline business case reveals that Fife is to lose four per cent of its budget each year until 2014/15.
And the service has been asked to save an additional half a per cent each year by Fife Council, bringing the total to 4.5 per cent savings each year.
The union’s latest concerns come just weeks after members protested outside the Scottish Parliament and held an emergency meeting with Fife’s MSPs to discuss the financial situation of the Kingdom’s fire service.
Neil McFarlane, Fife’s chief fire officer stressed that safety is paramount in any savings decisions it takes.
He told the Press: “We’re fairly positive we can meet our targets for 2012/13 but there will be difficult decisions and challenges among them.
“For the years thereafter it will be very difficult and challenging.
“One thing we have taken throughout this process is we have tried to abide by our philosopjical principles.
“We’re adamant that any proposals will not affect firefighter safety and have tried to make every effort not to affect the safety of our community, but in some areas we will have to put the risk up slightly.
“We have been very efficient over the last five years in making savings, but the percentages have increased and with dwindling budgets it is very difficult to find where to make these without affecting the delivery of services.”