Think again over fire cuts

From left: Graeme Birtley, chairman of the FBU Fife and Scott McCabe, secretary, outside Kirkcaldy fire station.
From left: Graeme Birtley, chairman of the FBU Fife and Scott McCabe, secretary, outside Kirkcaldy fire station.

THINK again over cuts to Fife Fire and Rescue Service’s budget.

That was the call from the Kingdom’s branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) to Fife Council after a week of political debate

The union has been running its ‘Cuts Cost Lives’ campaign for two years, trying to reduce the impact of lower budgets on both firefighter and public safety.

The union say the region’s fire service has seen its budget reduced by £5m with 50 fewer firefighters in the last five years, and the service is already operating with 20 fewer firefighters than the chief fire officer recommends.

At Fife Council’s recent budget meeting a further cut of £300,000 was approved for the service achieved by not filling 10 vacant posts.

Scott McCabe, secretary of the FBU in Fife, told the Press: “We have been asking Fife Council if they have managed to strike the balance between budgets and community safety.

“Following a recent review of working patterns we now have 20 firefighters less than the chief fire officer recommends.

“The independent Audit Commission report raises serious concerns about this budget balance and the governance structures within Fife Council.

“In light of this report we would ask Fife Council to reconsider its decision and invest in community safety for the people of Fife.”

Posts re-instated

Labour councillors in Fife are supporting the union in their call to the SNP/Lib Dem administration asking them to fund 20 firefighters.

Cllr Alex Rowley said: “Fife Labour group has made clear that these posts should not have been cut and we will reinstate them if we are in office after May.

“But the people of Fife need action now.

Neil McFarlane, Fife’s chief fire officer, said: “I can understand where they are coming from - we have reduced the workforce by 20.

‘’But that was for the right reasons, now we’re making the effort to increase that in the shortest time possible.”

He said the service is now recruiting with 10 positions expected to be filled by May.

He added: “There is a slight time delay from recruitment to being up and running as a firefighter, but various options are available in terms of over time etc, so there will be no impact on service delivery and no degradation to public or firefighter safety.”

Councillor George Kay, chairman of the police, fire and safety committee, added: “We have already started the process to bring back 12 posts.

“If the Labour party is going to do something over and above that it needs to tell us where that money’s coming from.

“We must remember Fife fire service is one of the top two in Scotland and the report at the last committee meeting showed that.

“We have got to realise that we’re not struggling to maintain safety in Fife.”