NEW fire stations will be built at the expense of fewer firefighters, as Cheshire Fire and Rescue service tries to save £5 million over the next four years.
The brigade announced sweeping changes to their future operations on Friday, while launching a four-month consultation into the wide-ranging proposals.
In Crewe, there are proposals to remove the station’s second fire engine or replace it with a smaller appliance.
Alternative plans would see changes to the way the second engine is crewed – reducing hours from 24-hour a day to 12 hour shifts.
New stations will be built at Alsager and Neston using retained firefighters: Non full time employees that are called in to their station when there is an emergency.
There will be three new-build, permanently staffed fire stations at Lymm, the M56/53 interchange south of Ellesmere Port and a west of Warrington in Penketh.
New stations will take engines from the brigade’s current stock of appliances – 32 large engines and seven rapid response vehicles.
The service also signed off the closure of the Winsford HQ’s emergency call handlers.
Twenty five staff at the Sadler Road facility have been told to move to the force’s new centre in Lingley Mere, Warrington, or take redundancy – a move warned against by the Fire Brigades Union.
At a press conference on Friday, chief fire officer Paul Hancock said the proposals were made possible due to a 40 per cent reduction in emergency callouts.
He said: “This is about continuous improvement. Making sure we have the right resources in the right places to deliver a safe and effective service across Cheshire.
“This plan will improve response times, will increase the number of fire stations for the county of Cheshire, but also it means fewer firefighters.”
Mr Hancock said the moves came amid ‘uncertainty’ over council tax rises and Government funding. He added that cost of the new build stations would exceed the £5 million the force hopes to save in the short term.
Mr Hancock said he hoped to avoid compulsory redundancies , but would not speculate on the number of firefighters that would be ‘reduced to match demand’.
The three-month consultation began on Monday. It will last unit December 17. The service will sign off the plans on February 13.
See the consultation at cheshirefire.gov.uk