Labour remains concerned at some outstanding issues:
The original consultation document stated the Service's target response times for life risk incidents in Wyre Forest were at 61% and so lower than the target 75%. Further, that this 10 minute response time target which is what is being referred to, was on average 10 minutes 55 seconds in Wyre Forest, and goes on to say they accept there will longer times for some responses but don't say how long (an admittance in fact the service will deteriorate). The document also has a number of callouts from Stourport to cover Kidderminster quoted so there is a clear further need for additional resource as full timers rather than retained in my view if they are to offset slower response times, and especially those incidents needing back-up or for concurrent incidents.
Bewdley on the face of it would seem most at risk here, but the document had a cavalier attitude in general in describing all risk by more or less saying most of it is in Kidderminster in terms of incidents (well it would because it's bigger isn't it with more dense population) and so thereby seemingly dismissing the importance of servicing the towns and rural areas and the risk to life in these areas. No mention of how this will be addressed!
Will there be further consultation I wonder given the consultation report itself, and most importantly, specifically highlighted the point that any location decision should be followed by additional consultation as requested by residents?
What is not clear is what amendments, if any from any public concerns, have been made following the 'consultation'? Some risk factors in order to save money in a Government cuts, which is the real issue here, appear not to have been addressed? For example: Have/how they addressed the additional response time risk for outlying areas in any way? Have they increased the full-timers numbers to offset cover issues and/or additional concurrent incidents? Or to offset potential loss of retained firefighters who seem totally demotivated by this who have a strong sense of 'community' which they feel is no longer valued by decision and policy makers?
The response from the public was low at 192 replying with only just over half agreeing (52%) to the change and no doubt driven by the so called 'open' questionnaire and it all ignored the community of Stourport's response where over 2,350 people objected via petition. How has that been addressed in these plans because they look not too dissimilar to the original plan?
If none of this has been done, then Derek Prodger MBE is making false statements when he says "I believe (the Hub) will have a positive impact on the communities of Bewdley, Kidderminster and Stourport and result in a more resilient prevention, protection and emergency response function." The key being the response function because that is clearly at odds with the above, their own document, and what is happening in reality. Prevention will not improve simply because it's centralised and clearly the local service has already done a good job with fires down over 30% in recent years, that, and better household and home equipment safety in general borne of (European standards) legislation. When we leave the EU, the Government's desire to "cut red tape" and attacks on health and safety which have already been reported on, may reverse this trend. Indeed, the consultation report did say that just because incident trends are down, this cannot be assumed to be a continuous trend.
This is about money - our communities are not daft and they are rightly concerned and can see it too. I believe the public are more likely to believe the FBU when they say lives are at risk and response times will increase (from an existing not meeting target time anyway) due to cost cutting. And on the subject of cost - are West Mercia's 25 local policing community safety officer teams (not Police! So an odd version of 'hub' and joined up blue light working) still going in there because that seems to have been forgotten too?
I think HWFRS still has a lot of questions to answer and in the event this change results in increased risk, or worse still - a loss of life - then those in charge and responsible for it should be held to account. Labour will work to ensure that happens if such tragedy sadly comes to pass.
Wyre Forest Labour Party