A PROPOSED shake-up of the fire service could leave south Warwickshire residents woefully unprotected.
That was the warning from two local councillors as Warwickshire County Council continues to consult on radical changes to fire and rescue services in the county.
Dr Manuela Perteghella, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Stratford and Jenny Wilkinson, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Kenilworth and Southam, say that the proposed changes will hugely reduce this important service, especially at night.
They state that according to the proposals, most of the local on-call stations including Bidford, Henley, Kenilworth, Fenny Compton, Gaydon and Shipston will be sidelined and replaced by a model of surge teams – which provide back up of extra personnel only when needed. While Southam, Alcester and Wellesbourne will move to daytime and evening cover only – leaving the area with a substantially reduced night cover.
In a joint statement, the councillors continued: “The surge solution proposed has never been implemented in a comparable rural English county. Our local area has a number of characteristics that may make the surge model unsuitable – many timber framed buildings in our towns and villages more prone to fire, several major roads – M40/42 and A46 – with numerous car accidents, repeated serious flooding with storm after storm, an older than average population, and a local population that in some areas is growing fast.
“A glance at the map of south Warwickshire shows two huge areas – one containing Alcester, Bidford and Henley, the other to the southeast, covering Southam itself and many villages from Napton down to Shipston – that will be left without local night-time fire and accident cover. Overnight, the whole area will rely on two appliances in Leamington and one appliance in Stratford, both about 30 minutes’ drive away, and that only once the appliances have set off.”
They also flagged up potential redundancies of existing on-call firefighters, with a consequent loss of local knowledge.
The councillors added: “The mathematical modelling has been done on historical data. It indicates that incidents are less likely to occur in the middle of the night. It will come as no reassurance for residents to know that while they wait for a fire engine to drive from Stratford to their burning home at three in the morning, they are a statistical anomaly.
“Rather than improving our fire and rescue service, it is being cut back to fit the resources available.”
WCC fire and rescue spokesperson Coun Andy Crump said the proposals were not about cutting costs or closing fire stations but about making sure resources were in the right place to make the best difference when an emergency happens.
He added that no decisions would be made until the consultation was over.
The public consultation is available at https://ask.warwickshire.gov.uk/insights-service/wfrs-r2r/