UNION chiefs today warned any fire service cuts could put lives in jeopardy.
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service expects to have to cut another £10m from its budget by 2016 – and Steve Harman claims that cannot be done without cutting vital firefighter numbers.
The service has already saved £13m in the last five years and Lancashire’s chief fire officer Chris Kenny said if funding reductions continued, it expected to have to make further savings of £10m from its £60m budget by April 2016.
And Mr Harman, brigade secretary for the Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU) in the county, told The Gazette: “Reducing the funding to lancashire by around £10m will have a dramatic effect.
“It will impact on the number of firefighters they can employ and that means less firefighters on engines, less fire engines, or both.
“If there are less firefighters on engines that puts them at greater risk of injury and effects the ability to protect the public, and less fire engines will mean, on occasions, slower attendance times.
“People will be in desperate situations in a fire or road traffic collision and will have to wait longer for the fire service to arrive.
“It has to put the public at risk.”
There are currently 60 fire appliances covering Lancashire, of which 28 are crewed by permanent firefighters with the rest staffed by retained officers - meaning they do not have an immediate response time.
Mr Kenny said the service was focussing on minimising “adverse effects” on front line services, but admitted that could not continue indefinitely.
He added: “We have already identified a further £4m of savings some of which will be realised this year.
“Our immediate aim is to minimise any adverse effect on front line services, but this cannot continue indefinitely.
“We will continue to review all parts of our organisation and will be doing this systematically to make sure we identify all opportunities to meet this most significant financial challenge.
“While protecting the public is our priority, to achieve £10m in savings it is inevitable that there will be an impact on the numbers of fire engines, firefighters or working patterns.
“This will be considered later this year during our emergency cover review.”