photo Worcester Socialist Party

photo Worcester Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Pete McNally, Worcester Socialist Party

On 21 August, over 80 people attended a protest at Bewdley fire station in Worcestershire against its closure. The protest was called by Save Bewdley Fire Station Campaign, which has collected over 2,000 signatures on its petition against closure.

We linked arms around the Fire Station and then held a public meeting. Neil Bevan of the Fire Brigades Union said: “We have a ten-minute attendance time and we only make that on 54% of the time, so by moving the appliance to Kidderminster and extending that by another two and a half minutes, that is going to be massively detrimental to the local community.”

Service under strain

The population in the county is up by 40,000 but the Fire Authority plan is four appliances overnight, where a recent incident required six. Cover was being reverse-aligned to meet financial constraints.

There are 86 fewer firefighters in Hereford and Worcester than five years ago. In the recent dam incident in Derbyshire the crew stationed in nearby Kidderminster was sent there. Cover was provided by goodwill and overtime.

From the audience it was pointed out that other local services had closed, there was no bank, library, and the bus service was poor – a pattern of rural rundown. Every time a service is ‘re-configured’ there was supposed to be an improvement, but it never happens.

Plans are being made to continue the campaign. The Socialist Party demands that closed fire stations are reopened, along with the reinstatement of any axed crews. The number of firefighters on duty at night to be 40, staff all appliances fully and permanently, and a minimum crew of five on all appliances. Councillors on the Fire and Rescue Authority must commit what funds are needed to run a safe and effective service, and commit to fight the government for these funds.