Fire station budget cuts

Fire station budget cuts

7 August 2019

PLANS to introduce full-time fire service cover in Downpatrick have been dashed because of budgetary pressures, it has been claimed this week.

The Fire Brigade Union says Downpatrick is one of a number of towns in the province which will be affected as the Northern Fire and Rescue Service faces a shortfall of £3.2m for 2019-20.

At present fire cover in the town is provided by 19 part-time fire fighters.

Under plans drawn up it was proposed that Downpatrick, along with Strabane and Dungannon, would be provided with full-time cover from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

However, the union says those plans have now been axed. In addition five towns —Newtownards, Carrickfergus, Omagh, Portadown and Enniskillen — will have full-time cover reduced.

Union leader Jim Quinn described the cuts as “outrageous” and said Downpatrick was being deprived of better fire cover.

“The plans to upgrade Downpatrick to a full-time station have been effectively scuppered,” he said.

“A town the size of Downpatrick should have full-time personnel available so that there can be a faster response time to call-outs.

Mr Quinn said the plans were at an advance stage, but had been abandoned owing to budgetary pressures.

“Now we are told there is no money available given the current financial climate,” he remarked. “These cuts are bad for the people of Northern Ireland.

“The plans show a shocking disregard for public safety and particularly the safety of provincial communities.”

However, Mr Quinn praised the work carried out by the part-time personnel in Downpatrick.

“The part-time fire fighters in Downpatrick are superb. They do a brilliant job, but they have their own jobs to do as well.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said: “The previous organisational review of NIFRS identified a number of part-time fire stations that could become full-time, one of which was Downpatrick Fire Station.

“However since May, NIFRS has been piloting a Service Delivery Improvement Team at Downpatrick Fire Station, which is made up of three full-time fire fighters. We are currently monitoring this pilot scheme.”