A FORMER Hereford mayor fears cuts and changes to the fire service in Hereford could be putting lives at risk.

Councillor Jim Kenyon said he was aware that full time Hereford firefighters were going out to support fire stations in the market towns.

But he said reducing the number of firefighters stationed overnight in the city would put an end to that.

“Quite often you have the crew members going out to keep pumps online,” he said while speaking at last week’s fire authority meeting.

“My concern is with the cuts that are going on in Hereford and Worcester you are not going to have the firefighters to go out and support the retained firefighters in these districts.

“I’m aware that the Worcester crew go and sit in Droitwich in the evenings too to support the fire crews there.

“If you are going to reduce the number of firefighters from 10 to 8, and then you are going down to four, you are significantly putting the people of Herefordshire at risk.”

Chief fire officer Nathan Travis said they spent two years trying to broker a deal to keep crews of five on the frontline in a full time arrangement.

“It is something that is a result of a legal challenge by the Fire Brigades Union,” he said.

Mr Travis said the service is happy to continue with its previous arrangement if it achieves an agreement locally.

“We have tried regularly to get a local agreement with the FBU here and we haven’t been able to achieve that to date.

“That’s the financial set-up that we have to deal in. The challenge with day crewing plus system is we can’t get a local agreement over the door at the moment.”

FBU West Midlands secretary Andrew Scattergood said the day crewing plus system was never agreed by the union.

“We have raised concerns from the very start about the extensive hours that firefighters would have to work, in some cases meaning firefighters would work 96 hours straight,” he said.

“There are tried and tested duty systems that the fire authority could revert to, which would both provide adequate 24-hour fire cover and allow firefighters to have legally adequate rest between shifts.

“We are disappointed that the fire authority is seeking to blame the FBU for the failure of a shift system which a court has ruled unlawful – a system which we have consistently told management was flawed and unsustainable.

“Instead the fire authority should be directing their frustration at central government who have, for almost a decade, cut the fire service year-on-year, leaving it chronically underfunded. The blame for any reductions in fire cover lay with central government and the decisions made by the fire authority. To blame the FBU is both irresponsible and factually incorrect.”