Please provide own truncheon…

On one of my posts about the closure of Brinklow fire station, Mrs Wormwood joked that under the ‘Big Society’ we would all be asked to carry around buckets of water.

Seems that the Government – well at least the Tories – have a similar idea for policing. The cuts will see numbers of police reduced by 20-30,000, but don’t worry about crime or public order, because they’ve got a cunning plan – bring in more volunteers, otherwise known as ‘DIY policing’. Ironically, the idea is to model the retained fire fighters, which is the same system being slashed by the Tories at Warwickshire County Council to save money.

I’m sure that this will be properly thought through, though. I mean, it’s not like the Tories rushed the Academies Bill through the Commons as fast as possible to avoid it being scrutinised properly, is it?

Eh? Eh? Oh.

More on Brinklow

The local press have a few more updates on the decision to close Brinklow, Studley and Warwick fire stations.

Firstly, the Telegraph tells us that the County Council spent £3,700 on a consultant who told the meeting that a lot of the opposition was ‘emotional’.

And secondly the Advertiser has a more complete report of the meeting – including how each councillor in the Rugby area voted. The local Fire fighters say that they feel ‘stabbed in the back’ by the following Tories in Rugby who voted to close the stations:

Peter Butlin, Robin Hazelton, Carolyn Robbins, John Vereker, Helen Walton, Claire Watson and David Wright

Remember their names, wnen it comes to election time.

FBU to strike over closures?

From the local papers – Rugby Observer:

But all the fire stations would have been saved if an amendment by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties had been carried

Labour Coun[cillor] Richard Chattaway led a motion for all the fire stations to remain open along with a comprehensive plan showing how current resources could be juggled to ensure all the improvements the Conservatives had said could be made as a result of the closures could still be carried out.

In other words, the Labour group offered a new option which would improve services, keep all of the retained stations and not cost any more money, and the Tories rejected it.

This is about cuts.

From the Coventry Telegraph:

After the crucial vote yesterday, Warwickshire Fire Brigades Union chief Mark Rattray said legal action against a “flawed consultation” would be examined – as well as a strike to protect people’s lives and firefighters’ jobs.

Chief fire officer Graeme Smith responded by saying: “I don’t think it’s in the interests of public safety for strike action, which would put the public at risk.”

But, in an interview with the Telegraph, he could not rule out the closures resulting in potentially fatal increases in journey times for crews responding to 999 calls.

I don’t think that the FBU want to strike (and I assume that most of the people losing their jobs would be represented by the Retained Firefighters Union rather than the FBU anyway, so it’s not simple protectionism), but it’s interesting to see that there is an admission that there could be lives at risk as a result of the closures.

Looking at the way that councillors voted, two Tories from Warwick voted against, and one (Philip Morris-Jones, who represents the Fosse district) abstained. All other Tories from the Rugby area, including the councillor who represents Brinklow (Heather Timms) either voted in favour of the closures or were not in attendance. All Liberal and Labour councillors there voted against the closures.

Update: It is now evident that Heather Timms was present but was unable to vote as she has a relative who works for the Fire Service.

Brinklow Fire Station to close

So, after a full public consultation (result – tens of thousands of responses, the vast majority against closure), and a six month delay to avoid it being an issue at the General Election (would the Tories have achieved a clean sweep of Warwickshire seats if this had been decided before May? I doubt it), the decision has been made.

As predicted yesterday, the council chose option ‘B’, which was to close three retained stations: Brinklow, Warwick and Studley. All are not far from the West Midlands border, and so in effect we are hoping that the Fire Service there will provide extra assistance. The Fire Service claim that this isn’t about cuts, but acknowledge that it will save about £100,000 a year. Dozens of retained fire fighters will lose their positions, and more will be expected of nearby stations.

The 34 councillors in favour of the three closures were all Conservatives, while one, Angela Warner, voted against, and one, Phillip Morris-Jones, abstained. (source – Coventry Telegraph)

This is just the beginning. The ‘Big Society’ will not be able to replace fire fighters.

Decision day tomorrow for Fire Service

The latest from the Cov Telegraph is that tomorrow the County Council will choose the ‘middle’ option, and close three of the fire stations in the county – Brinklow, Warwick and Studley.

The station getting the reprieve is at Bidford-on-Avon. I notice that the council cabinet member who is recommending this option represents the Aston Cantlow ward, which is within a few miles of…. Bidford-on-Avon. I’m sure this is just a coincidence.

Fire Station closures – the effect on Coventry?

Another report from the Coventry Telegraph (articles seem to be appearing there far more frequently than in the Rugby Observer, and the Advertiser hardly puts any content out on the website) on the debate arising on fire stations – Rumours to learn Warwickshire routes quashed by West Midlands Fire Service. Not too sure about the grammar in that headline, but the story is that a fireman from Coventry said that he and colleagues had been told to gen up on routes in Warwickshire, and that his bosses deny that there’s been any changes.

Now, I expect that fire crews near the borders of counties would need to cover each other – back home there’s a station in Horley, in Surrey, that is part of West Sussex Fire Service. But it’s also true that removing a station in Brinklow would likely mean that more cross-border support from the West Midlands is needed in Warwickshire.

The Tories and Brinklow Fire Station

According to the Rugby Observer, the proposals for reconfiguring Warwickshire’s Fire Service come in three options, all of which include the closure of the station at Brinklow, which is manned by retained firefighters and is often called upon to support Rugby. Warwick’s station is also in all three options.

In terms of total impact, the closure plans are not as bad as it was first feared, with a maximum of four stations being closed as opposed to a possible seven. Still, it would affect up to 100 retained firefighters, and has raised concerns amongst the public and neighbouring fire services about the level of cover.

And of course it seems highly suspect that the Tory council decided to put off a decision until after the General Election, in which the Tories won all the seats in the County. Would that have been the case if these closures had not been seen to be shelved soon after Christmas?

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