Cuts hit the fire service

Kevin Groom

Kevin Groom

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Cuts announced today mean firefighters will no longer go to some automatic fire alarms.

The fire service’s plans to cut costs and reorganise its management structure and service provision were unveiled this afternoon.

Chief Fire Officer Kevin Groom said the package of measures was aimed at maintaining public safety against ‘a backdrop of increasing budgetary constraint’.

The fire service has reviewed its policy regarding call-outs resulting from unwanted automatic fire alarm activations. In the 2013-14, the cost of responding to these types of call-outs to premises exceeded £144,000.

Mr Groom said: ‘This is clearly unsustainable. People and businesses must now take responsibility for the safe management of their premises.

‘An unnecessary call-out can divert crews away from genuine emergencies and result in additional expense being incurred.

‘I must stress that we will continue to respond to 999 calls and understand there may be occasions when an incident turns out to be less serious than initially thought.’

If a property has a history of false alarms, the fire service will stop attending.

The other changes include:

A streamlining of the operational management structure

The redeployment of the community safety team

A reduction in the number of wholetime firefighters and retained duty system staff

A scaling down of community partnership work

Resources will be focused on delivering core statutory functions, with work in other areas being scaled back or stopped.

The proposals are intended to achieve cost savings while protecting frontline operational services as far as possible.

Mr Groom said: ‘Service delivery and staffing levels are kept under constant review and balanced against revenue funding.

‘In common with other areas within the Department of Home Affairs, the fire and rescue service is taking this opportunity to reorganise the way it works. It’s an honour to lead such a team of dedicated professionals and I’m proud of their continued efforts to help protect vulnerable members of the community.’

He added: ‘It is clear that we have now reached a critical point in terms of maintaining existing levels of service while balancing our finances.

‘The changes I am announcing today are designed to prioritise our services to help safeguard the community.’

As well as attending fires, firefighters deal with road traffic collisions and support the response to environmental emergencies such as the recent snow storms and coastal flooding.

There is also a commitment to saving lives and preventing fires by providing education and advice, enforcing fire safety legislation and investing in its people through training.

Mr Groom added: ‘We will continue to concentrate on the provision of our core statutory functions of preventing, protecting and responding.

‘This means, sadly, that the majority of our partnership work with government departments, private enterprise and the voluntary sector will have to be scaled down as members of our community safety team will be redeployed to other operational roles.

‘The reductions in staffing levels will be achieved through retirement or voluntary resignation.’

As part of its future plans, the Department of Home Affairs is also considering the introduction of charges for non-emergency services. The proposal was included in a recent consultation on a Bill to modernise fire and rescue service legislation.

Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK said: ‘The Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service is actively engaged with the budgetary rebalancing process and the economic challenges facing the Isle of Man Government.

‘We will continue to assess the future strategic needs of the island and work as effectively as possible within the resources available to us.

‘The fire and rescue service is an essential part of our efforts to promote the island as a safe place to live and do business, and the public can have every confidence in the continued delivery of a first-rate emergency service.’

The government is making cuts in many areas after it lost one third of its income after the UK changed the terms of the VAT-sharing agreement with the island.

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