Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Fire and Rescue Service do a fantastic job in difficult circumstances.
This job doesn’t get any easier when, like every part of the public sector, it has to find its share of savings. Whilst their track record on exceeding service demands and keeping an eye on the precept is impressive, the Fire Service is not immune to savings requirements. Neither is it a protected service, regardless of whether we wish it to be.
Against this background, the Chief Fire Officer, Richard Chandler (CFO) and his team, have put together a comprehensive plan to rise to the challenges it is facing, provide for £1.5M savings per annum and deliver a fire and rescue service that is fit for purpose in 2020 and beyond. We are both confident that the Fire Service will still be able to respond to every emergency.
Let me also make it clear that these proposals have been through a rigorous process of evaluation and analysis. As Chairman of the Combined Fire Authority (CFA), I would not have put my name alongside the CFO’s on this consultation if I wasn’t satisfied with its robustness.
I am disappointed that some members of the CFA, who are also elected members of the County Council, have commented on the experience of the CFO, suggesting his team isn’t up to the task ahead. I have every faith in the CFO’s expertise and in his team to do their job. I appeal to those who criticised the CFO publicly, to look to their conscience and apologise.
I do not pretend that proposed changes to a cherished service are not emotive. And yes, they are difficult. But we live in difficult times and tough decisions must be made if we want to have a Fire Service that is fit for purpose in future. Some members of the CFA seem to pretend that money is not an issue and these decisions can be ducked. They seem to suggest that the world will stop spinning and Armageddon is approaching. Whilst this approach may serve their political motives in the short term, it is does nothing to tackle the very real decisions which must be made.
Such has been the response to the consultation, extra dates have been added, after listening to feedback from elected members and other stakeholders. I urge everyone to log on, take part and have their say. The CFA will use them when making their final recommendations early next year.
The plan (http://www.leicestershire-fire.gov.uk/images/pdfs/IRMP_Print_FINAL.pd) and the consultation (http://www.leicestershire-fire.gov.uk/irmp) are viewable via these links. The consultation period runs until 4th December 2015.