Posted: Tue 18th Jul 2023

Deeside’s full-time night shift at risk as fire service consults on future of emergency cover

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jul 18th, 2023

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The North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority is to hold a public consultation on the future provision of emergency cover in the region.

One option under consultation is to modify the staffing arrangement at Deeside Fire Station, transitioning from on-site wholetime firefighters to on-call firefighters for night time coverage.

The move would potentially see RDS (Retained Duty System) firefighters paid to be on call for long periods to respond to emergencies.

Many RDS firefighters have other full-time jobs outside the fire service, but are employed and trained by the local fire and rescue service.

When an emergency arises, they are summoned to the fire station by a radio pager.

Once there, they staff the fire engine and proceed to the incident.

They are required to live or work near the fire station they serve to meet strict response time targets.

In an effort to improve rural services, Corwen, Dolgellau and Porthmadog could transition into daytime staffed stations.

Consequently, 28 full-time firefighter positions from Deeside and Rhyl would be reassigned, potentially leading to job losses.

The North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority met yesterday morning to discuss the launch of a public consultation, following ongoing discussions over how they manage budgets.

As our sister site reported from January’s meeting over a 9.9% increase in the fire levy, future plans also include a multi million pound new training and development centre in Denbighshire. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The meeting was also told that “At the latest Social Partnership Forum, there was a discussion on the budgets for Fire and Rescue Services in Wales, and Welsh Government confirmed that there will be no additional money” around the recent pay award – something that was called ‘disappointing news’. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The meeting was then read sections of the Emergency Cover Review report, including a timeline of how the review into emergency cover came about – with an Audit Wales review of Corporate Resilience in North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority published in April 2021.

It recommended that the Authority should review station locations to identify opportunities to optimise emergency response arrangements. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The meeting was told, “These are very important decisions that we undertaking in terms of going out to consultation. Some of it is quite sensitive when we’re talking about the possibility of closing some fire stations” with a desire to move to ‘Part 2’ secret discussion with non public additional information. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The meeting disappeared behind closed doors, and although the public were not informed what would be consulted on, we understand a consultation will be launched that will ask the public their views on the below three options on how to provide emergency cover:  ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Option 1 This would mean that the 12 rural firefighter posts and 28
wholetime firefighter posts from Rhyl and Deeside station would be
reallocated to the three new day staffed stations. Cover for Rhyl
and Deeside would change to a day crewed model similar to the
model which currently operates at Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Bangor,
Caernarfon and Holyhead. This will continue to be in addition to the
existing RDS firefighters who crew the second fire engine at all these
stations. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Option 2 An alternative model which provides an improved
emergency cover by introducing three new day staffed stations,
but also realises savings of £1.1 million towards the increase in
2024/25 budget, currently estimated at £6 million thus limiting the
year on year increase to £4.9m. This option changes the crewing
model at Rhyl and Deeside to a day staffed model, which leaves
the night time cover to be provided solely by the RDS firefighters
and removes the third appliance from Wrexham. In total this sees a
reduction in 22 wholetime firefighter posts. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Option 3. Changes are in line with option 2, however, only two day
staffed stations are introduced and the closure of 5 RDS fire stations is
included. This is a reduction of 36 wholetime and 38 RDS firefighter
posts realises savings of £2.4m thus limiting the year on year cost
increase to £3.6m. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The detail and wording of the public consultation is not yet known as it is due to launch in the coming days, however the meeting yesterday was told “It should be noted that option 3 does not have the professional support of the Chief Fire Officer.

“This is because it does not improve emergency cover, reducing the number of households in North Wales who are able to receive a response within 20 minutes by 2,087.”

“It also removes 74 firefighter posts which reduces the capacity of North Wales Fire and Rescue Service (the Service) to deal with any future Major Incidents.”

“In addition, any possible merger of RDS fire stations can only be considered in the future when the three additional day staffed are in place and providing guaranteed day time emergency cover” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Following the meeting, and announcing the impending consultation, Chief Fire Officer Dawn Docx said: “Essentially, emergency cover means being able to provide an equitable service across our diverse communities – diverse in terms of location and geography, in terms of the types of incidents we respond to, and also in terms of the people we serve, no matter who you are. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​”

“We aim to achieve this by managing our resources, our budget and our people as effectively as possible. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​”

“Balancing this against the current challenges to providing our services is also key – especially when our part time or on-call firefighters are not as available as they have been traditionally, when the risks faced by our communities are changing, for example with climate change and when the financial challenges are greater than ever. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​”

“And it’s not just about responding to incidents – preventing them from happening in the first place is far better for everyone involved. Our prevention and protection work is therefore equally as important to helping to keep you safe.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Councillor Dylan Rees, Chair of the Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “This consultation is important to everyone in North Wales and understanding your views is key.”

“It asks for your opinion on what risks concern you most? What decision-making criteria is important to you? How do the options presented meet the needs of all our communities? Or you may have another suggestion about other ways of providing emergency cover in North Wales? ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​”

“Your feedback is therefore important – we want to know what you think about our options for providing emergency cover before the Fire Authority makes any final decisions about future provision. So please take the time to complete the consultation questionnaire. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​”

“The more people get involved, the better our prospects of achieving the right balance of services in what we provide. The more opinions we receive, the more we can be confident that the detailed action plans we develop will deliver exactly what the people of North Wales want.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The consultation opens on 21 July 2023 and closes at midnight on 22 September 2023 so the contents of the questions are not yet known. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

To take part, you will be able to visit to complete the questionnaire and to access all the information needed in order to respond to the questions. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

You can call or text North Wales Fire and Rescue Service on 07787 578 386 if you would prefer a paper copy or an easy read format, or email [email protected] ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

You can also attend one of the consultation events being held across North Wales and on line to gather feedback, again detail will be on the website. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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