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.”
Kidsgrove Town Council has announced it will not increase council tax for the next financial year after setting out its budget for 2014/15. The Labour controlled council once again voted to freeze the precept to try and offset the cost of living crisis. Councillors recognise that the people of Kidsgrove are being squeezed due to central government cuts and hikes in energy costs. The budget passed unanimously.
It was also agreed during the budget setting process that Christmas lights in Kidsgrove Town Centre are a shambles and virtually non-existent. Therefore £2000 has been set aside and the council will be looking for match funding from the Kidsgrove Town Team, Kidsgrove Rotary Club and other partners/organisations in the locality. The Kidsgrove Town Team, also known as Go Kidsgrove is currently in the process of looking at town centre decorations and events.
Newchapel Councillor and town team board member, Elsie Bates said: “It’s about time we do something about the Christmas lights in Kidsgrove because over the years they have just disappeared. I agree that times are tough but we must do our best to bring the feel good factor back to Kidsgrove and give people something to look forward to.”
The Town Council has also made the decision to invest £25,000 in security fencing for the allotments off Lamb Street. The site has been targeted by vandals and thieves over a long period of time and it was agreed something urgent needed to be done to improve security and remedy the problems. Members of the allotments committee made very clear that they were extremely pleased with the decision to secure the site.
Kyle say’s: “I am delighted that for a fifth year running we have made the decision to freeze the precept to leave hard earned money in peoples pockets. We have a fantastic town already and this is a budget full of positivity and town improvements – as well as a realistic eye for the future. The council achieved this freeze by acting responsibly with public money and saving in the good times. Although the town council’s share of annual tax bills is small, any saving is significant.”
The new tax year begins on April 1st. It is believed Newcastle Borough Council will also pass a Council tax freeze at its full council meeting in February.