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Guildford Fire Station Night Coverage Reduced As Part of ‘Making Surrey Safer’ Plan

Published on: 11 Mar, 2019
Updated on: 12 Mar, 2019

A new plan for the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will cut the number of fire crews at the new Guildford Fire Station ready to respond to night-time emergencies.

The proposals, set out in the SFRS document Making Surrey Safer Plan 2020-2023, outlines how it wants to improve the service it provides across the county.

This follows a damning Inspection Report on the SFRS published in December 2018 which found “serious concerns” about the performance of the service in keeping people safe.

The new Guildford Fire Station opened in 2015 on Ladymead.

The changes are expected to make savings of around £3 million per year. The budget for 2019/2020 is £34.9 million, the majority of which is staffing costs.

The plan increases spending by £1-1.5 million on community and business safety activities to prevent emergencies from occurring. But seven full-time fire engines could be taken off the road at night under new proposals.

The plan also looks to ways of recovering costs from situations that are not considered to be an emergency such as “freeing trapped animals and persistent false automatic fire alarms”.

Guildford would see the number of available fire engines reduced at night, as would Camberley, Woking and the fire station in Fordbridge, which is yet to open.

Excerpt from the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service consultation document showing the impact of changes on all fire stations in Surrey including Guildford.

One serving firefighter is quoted saying: “I’m really disappointed that these proposals have been sent out for public consultation and included in the latest Integrated Risk Management Plan.

“It will put the lives of the public and firefighters at risk from a delayed response at night. It’s a very dangerous proposal and one I hope doesn’t come to fruition.”

The SFRS says it has carried out a “detailed risk analysis” showing when and where its crews are needed most often and has based the proposals on its findings.

Steve Owen-Hughes, acting chief fire officer for SFRS, said the plans would “bring firefighters closer to the communities we service” and allow SFRS to make best use of its resources.

“By keeping the same number of fire stations and fire engines as we have now but crewing some of them differently at night, when there is less call on us, we’ll be able to do more life-saving prevention work and staff training, to make sure our crews are ready to help when needed,” he said.

“We’d still have the fire cover we need to keep Surrey safe during the day and night but we’d be able to step up our community safety work to prevent emergencies in the first place.

“And when we do need to respond, we want to do so as quickly as possible, so we’re taking steps such as reducing the time it takes between a call coming in and our firefighters leaving the station.”

The Inspection Report into Surrey Fire and Rescue’s performance shows the “stark reality of austerity”, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.

In particular, an inspection carried out in July 2018 found that a reliance on firefighters working overtime was putting crew members and the public at risk. Inspectors concluded that the service was “inadequate” at efficiently keeping people safe and was failing to make the best use of its resources.

In summary, the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said: “We have concerns about the performance of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and secure.

“In particular, we have serious concerns about the service’s effectiveness and efficiency.”

Surrey County councillor for Caterham Hill and leader of the Liberal Democrat Group.

Lee Belsten, the Surrey Brigade secretary for the FBU told The Guildford Dragon NEWS that they were considering a detailed response. But he said: “Seven Wholetime Fire Engines no longer available at night equates to a cut in 70 operational Firefighter posts at those stations.

“(The plan is) mainly focusing on prevention and protection following the criticism provided by Her Majesties Inspectorate. But the inspectors were also very critical for the not-so-efficient crewing model that keeps Fire Engines available, with a heavy reliance on overtime.

“So, it makes no sense whatsoever to remove these firefighter posts!”

Chris Botten, Liberal Democrat councillor at Surrey County councillor for Caterham Hill, told The Guildford Dragon NEWS that: “There doesn’t seem to be a consensus about the proposals amongst firefighters themselves and that is a concern. I want to hear what the firefighters themselves have to say.”

It was reported in December 2018 that SFRS was to recruit more than 40 new firefighters by March 2019. But sources say that this will only replace the number of firefighters that are leaving the service due to retirement and other reasons.

The consultation on Making Surrey Safer Plan 2020-2023 closes on May 26, 2019.

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Responses to Guildford Fire Station Night Coverage Reduced As Part of ‘Making Surrey Safer’ Plan

  1. Sue Fox Reply

    March 12, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Completely insane. Household fires are when people are cooking at night or using candles. Road accidents can occur at any time of the day or night.

    Firefighters know best not cost cutters.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 12, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Another textbook example of newspeak. Reducing coverage and resources for Surrey Fire & Rescue Service will make Surrey safer?

    Give me strength.

  3. Brian Holt Reply

    March 12, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    Only 13 full-time fire engines during the night for the whole of Surrey. What is going to happen at fire stations where fireman go sick at the start of a night shift? There will not enough fireman to man the fire engines deployed for that night, and crew will lose valuable time waiting for a retained firefighter to arrive to fill the gap.

    What would happen if there was another big fire like Clandon House? It will lead to more damage and bigger fires to fight, making it harder for Surrey Fire & Rescue to get under situations under control, tying up manpower for longer periods.

    And how would they cope if, heaven forbid, at the same time there was a motorway incident to attend.

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