Councillors have voted to urge Staffordshire Fire Authority to change possible plans to close Kidsgrove Fire Station. Kidsgrove Fire Station was opened in September 2011, costing the taxpayer £2.2 Million. The people of Kidsgrove were led to believe that the station would serve the locality for at least 60 years.
The Fire Stations across the region were built with a £50 Million Private Finance Initiative. This could mean that even if the stations close, the taxpayer will still be paying for them for over 20 years. Selling the buildings on will not recoup the build cost.
Back in July 2012, Chief Fire Officer, Peter Dartford told the evening Sentinel: “The extent to which the fire station has been used already is a clear demonstration of how important it is to the community. The facility provides a range of new opportunities for us and the partners we work with to engage more with the local community, better understand their needs and work with them to resolve their issues.”
One of the options contained within the consultation include reducing the normal fire engine size to a smaller vehicle. The smaller vehicles are the size of a transit van. Fire officers have expressed their own personal concerns to me and other colleagues, that these smaller vehicles contain a quarter of the water needed to fight a fire similarly seen recently on Congleton Road at The Fisherman’s catch takeaway. This saw a terraced commercial property gutted by fire and it took almost 25 minutes for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service to respond from Burslem Fire Station. It was suggested the Kidsgrove Station was unmanned on this day. It is felt by many that a minute added to response times will cost lives. Large loss of government income, is leading to a reduced level of prevention, protection and response and the impact will be major which includes loss of life or long term hospitalisation of innocent members of the public.
We only have to look over our borders to see what fire station closures can lead to. In South Wales, Fire and Rescue Service cuts have led to a situation of Fire crews not being able to assist with rope rescues or floods. Whilst in Dorset, a funding crisis and cutbacks of services has led to fire fighters working in their own time and response times dangerously increasing. These examples mirror what is to come to Staffordshire if people don’t stand against this and protect Kidsgrove’s emergency response capabilities.
The Town Council will inform Peter Dartford of the Council’s intention to fight the proposals. The closure of this facility should never have been an option in the consultation. Carving up Kidsgrove and sharing our Fire and Rescue Service with Cheshire and Alsager is ill thought out and the Town Council sees the detrimental impact this will have on response times. We firmly believe that the Kidsgrove Fire Station and the emergency response capabilities of the facility should remain at the same level. Although the council would be willing to look at the option of helping to set up a management committee to help run the community side of the station, reducing the burden on fire service staff.
Kidsgrove Town Councillor, Sarah Pickup said: “I don’t agree with the sentiment that because the fire service staff do such an excellent job that they should have their numbers cut. The County Council/Fire Authority is elected by us, it is our fire service and we should be able to decide the future and say no to closure. Kidsgrove is expanding and we are soon to have a new transport interchange that brings with it potential tragic incidents. We need a fire station that is manned in Kidsgrove and we will not accept decisions from Stafford and London.”
Kidsgrove Deputy Mayor, Sylvia Dymond said: “The Butt Lane area is being developed so much more and the infrastructure is not there to support it. Now they suggest taking away the Fire Station. This is really not acceptable.”
Labour councillors have today launched a campaign to save Kidsgrove Fire Station. Staffordshire Fire Authority has proposed to cut emergency response capabilities from the Kidsgrove Station. These plans have been revealed despite the huge increase in housing developments across the area. Residents are now fearing the worst and believe Kidsgrove needs it’s own dedicated Fire Station. Some of the proposals mean that services could be stretched to the limit, sharing stations and staff with Cheshire.
This news has also come about following the Fire Authority’s decision to increase the Fire Service’s share of Council Tax by 1.95%. A consultation day will be held on Wednesday 25th March, Kidsgrove Town Hall at 6pm.
Councillor Kyle Robinson said: “At a time when housing developments are on a massive increase across the Butt Lane area, I consider it is more important than ever to have our own operational Fire Station in the locality. I am not convinced that our community will remain safe from serious incidents following the removal of emergency response capabilities and I would urge Staffordshire Fire Authority to think again. I hope the consultation will be a genuine exercise and not a tick box scenario to close down yet another vital public service in Kidsgrove. Put public safety before cuts.”
Town Councillor, Sylvia Dymond said: “It would be a shocking state of affairs if this station closed permanently. The money spent to build these facilities cannot be returned following any closures. When budgets are tight and community facilities are closing all across Staffordshire, we need to protect what we already have for local people. I for one will not be letting this station close or see its services reduce without a fight.”
Local resident Julie Jukes said: “I am outraged that the managers of the fire service would even consider cutting back something as essential as this. My neighbours are very worried and I will be backing this campaign.”