FIRE chiefs are pressing on with a plan that cuts full-time 999 cover out of Hereford down to a single crew.

The compromise of keeping a second appliance on call will be put to Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Authority (HWFRA) next week.

But the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is already talking up a likely legal challenge to that option.

Though thousands of names have signed a petition against the loss of the crew, HWFRA meets on Monday with a choice to either remove the station’s second whole time appliance completely or replace it with a second retained appliance.

Under the plan to be debated, Ledbury and Tenbury could lose one of their two retained appliances while the stations at Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, Bromyard and Whitchurch stay as is.

All the proposed changes come with deferral  options of between 2-5 years if the authority supports using reserve funds to keep either retained or full-time appliances at stations.

HWFRA has been told that available reserves would only keep a second whole-time crew at Hereford  for 4-5 months while other options had the potential to save thousands of pounds towards an overall £767k savings target.

The authority already accepts that the cuts will compromise response times, but, maintains that, with the retained crews, enough back up is in place.

Steve Gould, area FBU secretary, said that the compromise offer exposed HWFRA to the likelihood of a legal challenge as the amendment to policy had presented without consultation.

“The issue is still about the downgrading of whole time fire cover when, in Herefordshire, we are struggling with the availability of retained cover,” he said.

Hereford fire fighters have thousands of names on their petition to save a second full time appliance while supporting a referendum on whether one full-time appliance on  24/7 emergency standby at their station is enough.

Many of those to have signed said they were prepared to pay more in the council tax precept raised by the fire authority to keep current 999 cover.

An even bigger majority were unaware that a public consultation exercise on the issue had been concluded by HWFRA.

On this basis, the FBU calls the consultation process a “failure”.

The extent of proposed cuts to fire cover in the county - part of a cuts package applying across the whole HWFRA area - has been outlined previously by the Hereford Times.

As proposed,  full-time 24/7  first response fire and rescue fire cover at Hereford fire station comes down to a single appliance and no more than seven fire fighters on a shift.

Those seven - presuming all are present - would be the full-time 999 response for the whole county, including the manning of specialist appliances, with Malvern as the nearest full-time back-up.

The specialist options on standby at Hereford are an aerial ladder, an incident response unit, a Land Rover 4x4, an ultra heavy rescue vehicle, a water rescue team and a water rescue vehicle.