By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
More than 1,200 people have had their say on cuts to Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service as part of a public consultation on the plans.
Disagreements over the nature of the proposals are continuing as the service edges nearer to the conclusion of the survey.
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) could reduce its fire crew cover at three stations – West Bridgford Fire Station would have no crew on duty at all at night, and London Road and Stockhill stations would lose one fire engine each.
The consultation on the cuts, which would save £2 million, closes in four weeks.
In an update at Nottinghamshire County Council’s full council meeting, Councillor Michael Payne (Lab), Chair of the Fire Authority, said as of November 23, 1251 completed questionnaires had been submitted.
He said: “Once the consultation closes, detailed analysis will be completed and reported to the fire authority.”
The Home Office told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that NFRS held £10.7m in reserves as of March 2021.
As crews in West Bridgford would come from other areas overnight, average response times are expected to increase by 43 seconds at a station already significantly above the service’s eight-minute target.
In Ashfield, the fire service plans the return of 24-hour cover at the Kirkby-in-Ashfield station.
An ongoing row has also seen Labour councillors arguing that the cuts are a result of Conservative austerity.
But Conservatives have pointed out that the cuts are being proposed by Labour – who run the Fire Authority in Nottinghamshire.
Cllr Payne told the meeting: “Let me clearly say, decisions about fire service cover review in Nottinghamshire are the result of an evidence based risk assessment, not political choices.
“The conservatives in Rushcliffe have been distributing a flyer titled ‘Labour are trying to cut our fire service’.
“It’s a better work of fiction than Harry Potter, and the characters are even worse.”
The Conservative leader of Rushcliffe Borough Council Cllr Simon Robinson previously said he was “extremely concerned” by the plans.
Cllr Payne said Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service is the seventh worst fire and rescue service in the country in terms of cuts.
He said: “In 2019/20 NFRS saw a 13.21 per cent cut compared to 2010/11.
“In the same year, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service received a 3.92 per cent increase, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service received a 3.4 per cent increase and Shropshire received a 1.3 per cent increase.
“If they don’t agree with cuts, my question to Nottinghamshire Tory MPs is simple, why did you vote for them?
“In recent years, NFRS has been able to set a balanced budget, but it is now anticipating a shortfall in funding in the region of £3m in 2023./24. This is as a result of Conservative cuts, spiralling inflation and the impact of pay awards that are not being matched by funding increases from this government.
“Notts Fire Service has identified £1m in reserves that can be used to temporarily cushion the blow, but this still leaves a shortfall in the region of £2m.
“Our fire service has been rated good, and that’s thanks to the outstanding staff. But we are being held back from doing so much more.”
A Home Office spokesperson previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Decisions on how their resources are best deployed are a matter for each fire and rescue authority. They determine appropriate targets for local response times based on its analysis of risk and local circumstances.
“Nottinghamshire Fire has a core spending power of £45.8m this year, an increase of 5.2% compared with 2021/22, which demonstrates our commitment to ensuring fire services have the resources they need to keep people safe.”
A final decision on the plans is expected in February 2023 and if approved after the public consultation, the changes will go ahead from April 2023.