As part of the County Council’s budget process I have been looking at the proposed savings for the Fire & Rescue next year. They have had £1.3m cut from their budget and are confident that most of this can be achieved with no real front-line impact.
They have already put in places efficiency changes in how they deliver their service and are confident that £783,000 can be saved in this way but these changes are the last in a long line of streamlining and efficiencies and there really isn’t any further savings that can be made in this way and so the extra £532,000 will have to be saved by a direct cut to the front line service.
Northamptonshire currently only has one Technical Rescue Vehicle (some smaller authorities have more than one). This is a specialist vehicle that carries state-of-the-art equipment and highly skilled crew to attend road traffic accidents where drivers are trapped. They are based in Northampton but cover the whole of the county and consequently have a specialised crew on permanent standby ready to be dispatched at a moment’s notice.
Having that highly trained specialist crew on 24 hour standby comes at a cost and so the proposal as to how to save the money is to stand them down and put them on normal duties, and when and if they are needed simply pull them from these duties.
Obviously if that means they are already dealing with an incident somewhere else and they are needed there will potentially a life threatening delay while they have to leave the job they are on and then attend a car crash perhaps the other end of the County.
This is clearly a real risk and I would suggest a cut too far! It is important that as part of the current public consultation the Council are currently undertaking (ends 19th January) as many people who are concerned about this respond to the council and say so.
Half a million pounds is a lot of money to find especially when we know the council have to make savings of £84m this next year because of government cuts, but there are some things that are too much to ask for and I would argue this is one of them.
Interestingly, these same specialised fire fighters are also our specialised boat crews and some of them were recently up in Cumbria helping with the disaster there. At that time the Techinal Rescue Vehicle was covered but without this permanent cover this could leave us very open to problems.
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Mick Scrimshaw is the Leader of the Labour Group at Kettering Borough Council, the Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance at Northamptonshire County Council. He has a public record of standing up for Kettering as a County Councillor for the Northall division in Kettering, Northants and since May 2015, a Borough Councillor for the William Knibb ward. He is a keen cyclist and also runs a family business with his wife.