The North’s Acting Chief Fire Officer Peter Craig has warned Stormont’s Finance Directorate in a letter that the savings which are envisaged would mean cuts in front-line services.
“I must advise you in the strongest terms possible that the levels of efficiencies that are anticipated as part of this financial exercise cannot be achieved without having a significant and detrimental effect on Front line Services,” warned Mr. Craig.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union in Derry say that the cuts outlined in the letter would almost certainly lead to the closure of either the Northland Road or Crescent Link stations.
Fire Service chiefs had been asked to estimate the effects of a projected cut of more than 20 percent in the annual budget. “The majority of NI Fire and Rescue Service expenditure is on staffing costs, most of which are associated with Front Lines Services”, Mr. Craig replied.
He continued: “To achieve up to 25 percent efficiency savings, NIFRS would be forced to consider a reduction in its workforce of some 150 staff and the closure of at least two whole-time crewed fire stations, coupled to the downgrading of fire and emergency cover in at least six other whole-time crewed fire stations. The detrimental impact of such an efficiency programme upon frontline services would be province-wide...”
Mr. Craig warned that a cuts programme on anything like this scale would face “vehement opposition from trades unions” and significant opposition from local communities and their political representatives.
No firm decision has been made to impose the cuts outlined by Mr. Craig. However, the letter makes it clear that fire service management at the highest level are seriously concerned at what could be coming down the line from Stormont.
People Before Profit will support any action by members of the Fire Brigades Union to resist such cuts - or any cuts. We urge all unions and communities to stand together and present a united front in resisting any attempt to cut jobs and services.
We call on mainstream parties which have declared opposition to cuts to pledge now to vote down any budget which makes cuts inevitable.