Probe pledge on fire cuts

Paul Maynard-MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys.
Paul Maynard-MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys.
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An urgent investigation has today been promised into claims firefighters will be delayed in tackling blazes due to staffing cuts.

As reported in yesterday’s Gazette, union chiefs have issued a rallying call to the Fylde coast public after discovering funding has been cut for crewing Blackpool fire station’s aerial ladder platform (ALP), which is often used to tackle major incidents.

Now Paul Maynard, who represents Blackpool North and Cleveleys in Parliament, and Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, say they will look into the claims.

Both MPs previously supported a successful Gazette campaign to save one of the station’s fire engines, which had been threatened with the axe due to Government cuts.

Mr Maynard said: “I am disappointed, after the fire brigade listened to public opinion, that one of the prices of this has been that we’re going to have reduced access to the aerial ladder platform.

“If needs be I will certainly take this up in Parliament, though I’d want to see what the chief fire officer has to say about this first of all.”

The ALP features a platform attached to a ladder, which allows the crews to tackle blazes from a greater height.

In the past, five firefighters were assigned to each of the two regular engines on each shift, while two looked after the ALP in case it was required.

Now five are assigned to one engine and four to the other, with no permanent cover for the ALP.

It means firefighters from other Fylde coast stations will have to be drafted in to man the £400,000 equipment, one of the other engines will have to be sacrificed so the ALP can be taken out, or an alternative ALP will have to be driven over from Preston.

Mr Marsden said: “It does seem to be an odd way to do things.

“We need to get some clarity very quickly on what the arrangements are. We’ve already spoken to the fire brigade and we will be pressing them further for a new explanation as to how this will work.”

Chris Molloy, Blackpool’s representative at the Fire Brigades Union, has now urged the public to write to their MPs about the issue. The funding changes have been brought about by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service’s policy of “switch crewing”, which means crews will switch from one to the other depending on the requirements of the specific incident.