Council’s ‘no’ to NIFRS cuts

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Mid and East Antrim Council has expressed “serious concerns” over plans to reduce the level of wholetime cover at Carrickfergus Fire Station.

The local government authority was responding to a consultation by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, which outlined a number of proposed changes to crewing arrangements.

These included the permanent reduction of wholetime cover from 84 hours to 50 hours per week in seven locations, including Carrickfergus, with 34 hours to be covered by retained firefighters.

The number of appliances and number of retained duty system firefighters located at each of the seven identified stations will not be affected by this change.

The number of wholetime firefighters would change from 12 – 8, while the proposals also included a reduction in the daily shift by two hours from Monday to Friday and to revert back to retained firefighter cover on a Saturday and Sunday.

Responding to the NIFRS, the council stated: “In relation to the proposals outlined MEABC have serious concerns that the impact of a reduction from wholetime cover from 84 hours per week (seven days per week, 7.30am-7.30pm) to 50 hours (Mon-Fri, 8.00am-6.00pm) in Carrickfergus will be significant for public safety.

“We are advised by the FBU (Fire Brigades Union) that the busiest times for the service are Saturday and Sundays and 5.00pm – 10.00pm, the very times that would no longer covered by wholetime cover but would be provided by retained firefighters. Notwithstanding that the standard of service provided by retained firefighters is the same as that of their wholetime colleagues, the additional response times cannot be ignored.

“Whilst it is noted that the proposed changes aim to support those station areas deemed at higher risk, our duty is to our constituents and it is the belief of Mid and East Antrim Council that the changes proposed would be to the detriment of our citizens.

“Evidence provided, through the consultation document and presentation to elected members, does not demonstrate that the changes would provide a better service, or even maintain current service standards, for our constituents. As such MEABC strongly oppose the proposed changes for crewing arrangements for Carrickfergus Station.”

Proposing that MEA submit the response to NIFRS was Councillor Cheryl Johnston, seconded by Alderman May Beattie. Commenting afterwards, Cllr Noel Jordan said his main concern was “the need to recruit retained firefighters on a 24-hour basis”.