NORTH Wales Fire Authority threw out proposals today (Monday) to change rural cover across the region, meaning a stalemate in negotiations is set to continue following a public consultation earlier this year.
The review of staff would have seen a redistribution of firefighters and resources to improve rural cover but adding a five-minute response time to more urban areas.
But at a North Wales Fire Authority meeting today, a decision was deferred – and the move described as ‘robbing from Peter to pay Paul’.
Following ongoing negotiations between the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) and the authority, members rejected the plans to scale back Rhyl and Deeside stations from 24-hour operation to day-crew only.
Currently firefighters are stationed 24 hours a day at Rhyl and Deeside, but the latest proposals would have instead seen them based at stations between 12 pm and 10 pm and then retained on call after hours within five minutes of both sites – a move which would free up staff.
Back in October the fire service dropped proposals to close stations in North Wales with Llanberis, Beaumaris, Abersoch, Cerrigydrudion and Conwy previously at risk.
Speaking at the meeting, Matt Ryan of the FBU said: “The last six months have levied a heavy toll on the communities under threat and the staff who will be affected. They (firefighters) have united in a rebuttal of the downgrading of fire stations and the reduction in standards of fire cover that the options represent.
“They have stepped up to this challenge because they know how dangerous and foolhardy the options are. It is these brave men and women with a conscience who will have to deal with the consequences of a delay in turn out.
“They are our vanguard of our emergency services response in North Wales, and they have no faith in the options proposed by our management team.”
He added: “We aren’t deliberating on the closure of a library or how often bins should be emptied.”
As part of the same rejected proposals, twelve whole-time duty system rural team staff were set to be relocated from an unspecified location to Porthmadog, Dolgellau, and Llangefni fire stations on a 12-hour day shift, increasing rural cover. Currently firefighters are retained (on call) at these three stations.
Plans to cut one of Wrexham’s two whole-time fire engines were outright rejected by the public earlier during the consultation, and the latest proposal involved refining the current arrangement to continue to cover South Denbighshire as part of that same operation.
As with Porthmadog, Dolgellau, and Llangefni fire stations. this proposal would have allowed Corwen station to be covered by Wrexham firefighters when required.
Cllr Rob Triggs said councillors should delay the vote to allow more discussions.
Members then voted to defer the emergency cover review decision.
The vote to approve the proposals was lost 12-11 with one authority member abstaining and another having digital connection problems. The member who couldn’t connect had already indicated they would vote against, meaning the result would have been unchanged.