Councillor backs Matlock firefighters’ protest against station cuts

The Fire Brigades Union are holding a demonstration in Matlock town centre on Saturday, February 10, to highlight their opposition to planned cuts.
The Fire Brigades Union are holding a demonstration in Matlock town centre on Saturday, February 10, to highlight their opposition to planned cuts.

A Matlock councillor on the Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Authority has voiced support for firefighters holding a demonstration this weekend.

Councillor Sue Burfoot, who represents the area at town, district and county level, has criticised plans which would cut the number of full-time firefighters at Matlock fire station.

Councillor Sue Burfoot

Councillor Sue Burfoot

The fire and rescue authority is running a public consultation on changes to duty systems, which specify the number and type of staff employed.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Burfoot said: “I feel very protective of our firefighters, who provide a guaranteed service 24-7. I fully support them in their opposition to these proposals.

“I joined the authority in December and one of the first things I was asked to do was consider this consultation and vote on whether it should go ahead.

“The consultation is flawed as there is no option offered to the public to maintain the status quo. I was not happy with it, and voted against. It was a very close vote. ”

She added: “People are being asked to choose between three very poor options. It is unfair leading them to believe that is the only way.”

The Fire Brigades Union, which will hold a demonstration in Crown Square at 10.30am on Saturday, February 10, is encouraging members of the public to ignore the choice offered in the consultation and respond using the blank spaces provided for additional comments.

The fire authority says the changes are driven by a need to save £1.6m by 2019/20.

A spokesman said: “Any additional funding be required to cover potential pay and inflation increases and support other service pressures.

“The authority is anticipating having to use its reserves to balance its budget for the first time this year, and vacancies are being held to avoid the need for any redundancies, which is not sustainable.

“We believe it is inefficient to continue employing the existing number of full time firefighters as the number of incidents we respond to continues to decrease.”

They added: “We have evidence that the response times can still be achieved by using a mix of staffing that is more suited to the types of incidents that occur in this area.”

Matlock station currently has 14 firefighters employed on a full-time basis, and 12 on-call members of the community who are paid to respond to emergencies. Under the consultation proposals, that could change to eight, nine or zero full-time crew and 22 on-call.

Coun Burfoot said: “There is no problem with the excellent service provided by on-call firefighters, but it is much more difficult to recruit and retain them.”

Echoing another concern raised by the union, she said: “The consultation also makes no mention of whether the station housing will be demolished or put on the market.”

The authority spokesman said: “There are 12 service-owned houses at Matlock that are made available for firefighters and their families to live in when they are attached to the current duty system at Matlock.

“If a duty system is approved at the authority meeting in March, plans for disposal of the houses will be drawn up. Any capital recovered will be factored into future spending and development projects.”

For more details on the consultation and how to take part, see www.derbys-fire.gov.uk/have-your-say.