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Fire commander warns of cuts impact

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Fire commander warns of cuts impact

FIRE chiefs in Dumfries and Galloway are unable to plan their emergency service operations properly because of cuts and uncertainty about funding.

Andrew Kenna, the region’s area commander, issued a letter this week about the “challenging financial and operational circumstances” the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is facing.

He was expected to produce a local fire and rescue plan, which would be shared with other partner organisations, including Dumfries and Galloway Council and Police Scotland.

However, he wrote to them on Monday stating that those plans are up in smoke due to funding cuts by the Scottish Government.

In his letter, Mr Kenna listed a series of drastic cuts already made by the fire service, including the withdrawal of ten fire appliances, a reduction in high reach appliances, and the closure of the SFRS area headquarters in Hamilton.

Mr Kenna wrote: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Board has made the decision to postpone the development of new local fire and rescue plans.

“As you will be aware, the SFRS, like all public bodies, is facing challenging financial and operational circumstances.

“SFRS have developed a package of change proposals to address the financial challenges for this year, 2023/24. This includes the temporary withdrawal of ten appliances, a reduction of high reach appliances, the move to dual crewing for both fire and water rescue at Polmadie, the closure of our West Service Delivery Area Headquarters at Hamilton; and a review of our corporate services.

“These changes have not had a direct impact of service provision in Dumfries and Galloway.

“However, SFRS will need to make further changes in coming years. The service will be consulting on proposals to make permanent changes next year and therefore, I do not feel that I can, at this point, ask you to consider local priorities for your area when I expect that more change will follow.”

The situation has angered Mid and Upper Nithsdale Conservatives Councillor Andrew Wood, who said: “This letter clearly indicates that the Scottish Government is not resourcing our vital services.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Firefighters play a vital role in protecting our communities and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has continued to deliver the high standard of services required to keep Scotland safe.

“That is why, despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we are providing SFRS with more than £368 million this year, an increase of £14.4 million on 2022-23.

“Whilst the allocation of resources, including the provision of equipment, is an operational matter for SFRS, we are maintaining frontline services, with a higher number of firefighters in Scotland than other parts of the UK.”


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