A review by Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS), currently being consulted on, would reduce the number of fire engines in both counties while employing more full-time rather than on-call firefighters.
The MP had said he was “very much opposed” to the review, saying: “I am concerned it will put the safety of residents at risk.”
A HWFRS spokesperson responded: “Sir Bill Wiggin can be fully assured that the residents of North Herefordshire will not be put at risk by removing the second fire engines at Bromyard and Leominster to fund these proposals”, which “would see an improvement in resilience, availability and response times”.
They explained: “For many years these second fire engines have been unavailable for a large period due to challenges recruiting enough on-call staff, and are only used for a very low number of incidents each year.”
Leominster and Bromyard stations would gain full-time staff in the daytime, “when there are routinely difficulties with on-call firefighter availability”, the spokesperson added.
Meanwhile in Hereford, “more full-time firefighters would be available to crew the busiest first fire engine, attending many hundreds of incidents per year”.
The fire service also rejected Sir Bill’s claim that a switch to more full-time firefighters would increase union “militancy” in the county and hence safety being impacted by strike action.
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“Sir Bill Wiggin MP may be mistaken to assume that during any potential future periods of industrial action, these proposals would impact the on-call firefighters in North Herefordshire, as all the fire stations affected would still have a large complement of on-call firefighters if they are not taking part in industrial action, as they do today,” the spokesperson said.
“The small contingent of full time staff proposed are merely there to support the majority of on-call firefighters.”
The service’s chief fire officer Jon Pryce is meeting Sir Bill later this month to discuss the proposals, and to “reassure him that the safety of residents will not be put at risk”, its spokesperson added.