CONCERNS safety may be compromised have been raised after Fife Fire and Rescue Service’s budget is to be cut by £300,000.
The cut was just one of the efficiency savings included in Fife Council’s budget which was approved last Thursday.
The region’s fire service does not intend to fill 10 current vacancies as a way of making savings before it becomes part of a new national set up next year.
Changes to arrangements for managing annual leave and the flexible deployment of staff will also allow savings to be made without affecting frontline staff.
Under the proposals, the chief fire officer will have access to additional funding should he believe it necessary to further increase firefighter numbers.
However, the move has been met with fears for both firefighter and public safety by opposition councillors.
Kirkcaldy Labour councillor and former firefighter Neil Crooks said: “When firefighters and officers are telling me that their ability to safely manage risks at incidents is being compromised, then someone has to speak out.
“The firefighter’s job is very much risk orientated and actions and procedures are well documented and well rehearsed.
“Within the risk assessment there are identified resources required to maintain firefighter and public safety and if the resources are not on-site at an incident, tasks cannot be undertaken.”
He said the Fire Brigades Union in Fife has produced a 22-page briefing for MSPs which clearly makes their concerns public, stating morale is low and the potential exists where first responding crews may be unable to undertake a life rescue until the arrival of supporting appliances.
Cllr Crooks added: “I believe that if resilience in Fife is a problem, the case must be made urgently to the Scottish Government for additional funding.
“All of the Fife MSPs unanimously supported that position so somewhere in the Fife Council coalition this cut has been accepted despite widespread political and public anxiety about our fire and rescue service.
“I can only hope that common sense prevails and we start to reverse the demoralising reductions in fire cover which threatens the safety of public and firefighters collectively.”
But Councillor Peter Grant, leader of the administration, said he was confident the savings will not have an impact on safety after being given reassurances from Fife’s chief fire officer.
He said: “I have absolutely no qualms about the public safety of it, or firefighters’ safety.
“The chief fire officer has given me his assurances.
“I have absolutely no hesitation at all about it.
“The fire and rescue service in Fife will operate with at least the same number of firefighters as they have at present with shift patterns and holidays etc, managed accordingly.
“The safety of the public and our firefighters is a top priority and we welcome the professional reassurance from the chief fire officer that safety standards will be maintained.”
Re-iterating that there will be additional funding available for the chief fire officer should he need it, Cllr Grant added: “The chief fire officer will know any time the bell goes there will be enough fire service personnel there to attend and deal with an incident.”