Fife fire cuts: ‘savings before safety’ MSP claims as Fife stations face cuts

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Planned cuts to fire stations across Fife have put community safety secondary to budget savings, an MSP has claimed.

Alex Rowley spoke out after studying the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service’s (SFRS) blueprint on how it make savings of £11m this year - with more to come over the next two years.

And he hit out: “The Scottish Government must come forward with more funding to prevent the decimation of this essential public service."

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Mr Rowley, Labour MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, has called a public meeting on August 23 to discuss the impact as stations in Dunfermline, Glenrothes and Leven face losing secondary vehicles for up to one year, and the height appliance vehicle in Kirkcaldy is being scrapped altogether with cover now coming from Dunfermline - 15 miles away.

Firefighters responding  to a call (Pic: TSPL)Firefighters responding  to a call (Pic: TSPL)
Firefighters responding to a call (Pic: TSPL)

The proposals have sparked a huge backlash among firefighters and politicians across Fife come to the table. They have said the moves are “unacceptable.”

Mr Rowley said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue service has made it clear that this is the first of a series of year on year budget and that jobs losses will be central to their financial strategy going forward.

“Fife has already been disproportionately affected with appliances being withdrawn at three stations, and yet, fire chiefs are trying to tell us this will not affect community safety. This cannot be true. How is it possible to maintain the same level of fire cover with fewer fire engines and fewer firefighters. I can only come to the conclusion that fire safety is a secondary consideration to budget savings."

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In its document, the SFRS accepts that concerns have been raised over the proposed changes, which come into effect from September 4 – in total it is removing secondary machines from ten stations across Scotland, and cutting the number of height appliance vehicles from 26 to 16 among other measures.

It said: “Like all public services, we are operating in a challenging financial period and require to save at least £36 million across the next four years. We have a legal obligation to deliver a balanced budget and must achieve these savings. The temporary withdrawal of these second or third appliances is necessary to help us to meet our immediate financial challenges within this timeframe.”But the report stressed not all decisions were financially driven - it also wanted to “modernise as a service to ensure we are best placed to meet the changing risk and demand we face across Scotland.”

It said changes to high reach vehicles - ultimately they will number just 14 after two tiers of withdrawals - was part of a ten-year operational strategy, and firefighters would “continue to deliver a robust emergency response for our communities.”