Firefighters in talks to ease cutbacks
TALKS have been held between Torquay firefighters and service bosses aimed at reducing the impact of controversial cuts.
A delegation from Torquay, made up of members of the Fire Brigades' Union and concerned Torbay councillors, met chief fire officer Lee Howell at Devon and Somerset fire HQ in Exeter. They once again raised fears slower response times could result from cuts due to be implemented in the coming weeks.
They outlined proposals aimed at maintaining the current 13 minute response time for a second pump.
The talks are understood to have reached a critical phase although some 'common ground' has been found.
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If the talks fail then the cuts, agreed by a vote of the fire authority in July, will be implemented as planned.
Now it is up to the FBU to come back with concrete proposals which would balance the need for £900,000 of cuts while lessening the impact on Torquay's frontline fire-fighting capacity.
Cllr Ian Doggett, who has been at the forefront of the Herald Express campaign to 'Stop the Fire Cuts', attended the meeting and said: "It was a positive meeting. The discussion was frank honest and open. Local management are to show a proposal which is not a million miles from what the Fire Brigades' Union and the firefighters want.
"Some detail needs to be refined and hopefully this will result in a way forward to benefit Torbay."
Firefighters and councillors are reluctant to give away details of the new proposal until firefighters have been consulted.
Torbay fire authority member, Cllr Vic Ellery, said: "The meeting was positive. Our primary concern is making sure the response times of the second pump meet nationally agreed standards."
The fire authority voted in July to go ahead with the controversial Proposal 10 to man Torquay's second whole-time pump with an on-call crew.
The Herald Express launched a 'Stop the Fire Cuts' campaign and readers contributed to a 22,000-signature petition.
The news comes after community campaigners, who took their protest against firefighter cuts to Downing Street, suffered a setback when the Prime Minister said it was not a matter for him.
Susie Colley, chairman of the Torquay Neighbourhood Forum, led a delegation from Torquay to Number 10 on September 11.
They asked David Cameron to intervene and reverse the decision to cut the number of frontline firefighters.
But a letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government to Mrs Colley says while it 'notes' the concerns of people in Torquay 'neither the Minister for Fire nor the Prime Minister can intervene in these decisions, which are local matters'.
However Mrs Colley has vowed to carry on the fight.
She said: "I am going to take this to the MEP and Brussels and if needs be I'll shame this government to listen."