Coventry's firefighters are concerned about plans to replace traditional fire engines with Land Rover fire appliances. The Fire Brigades Union claims the change, which it describes as 'worrying', would put jobs at risk and is being 'rushed through'.
A trial is scheduled to take place early in 2012 at Coventry’s Radford Road fire station. New Brigade Response Vehicles (BRVs), as the kitted-out Land Rovers or Range Rovers are described, will attend small fires which are not in buildings and other less serious incidents.
Fire chiefs say it will free up traditional fire engines for larger incidents which pose a risk to people’s safety, including firefighters. Councillor John Edwards, chairman of the West Midlands Fire Service, stated, 'We have looked at data of incidents over the last three years, which tells us that a traditional fire engine isn’t always needed. Earlier this year we began to trial the use of a specialist Range Rover to respond to false alarm calls in city centres across the West Midlands. It found this produced a cost saving and demonstrated that our traditional fire engines were more readily available to respond to large scale incidents.'
In view of this, he said, 'We are now reviewing other areas to see which incidents can be effectively responded to without the use of a full scale fire engine. Our key concerns are always about the safety of the public and our firefighters, and this trial will be set in that context. Our aim is to continue to provide an effective service against a background of unprecedented cuts to our budget by the government.'
The West Midlands Fire Service is facing government funding cuts, with up to a quarter of the £120m budget to be cut by 2015. Fire stations could face closure and job losses are also expected. Roger Moore, of the Fire Brigades Union in the West Midlands, said, 'It isn’t a bad concept but it feels as if it has been rushed through. They are looking at replacing one of the engines at Radford with one of these vehicles. It is worrying because staff are concerned it is a risk to jobs as the crews for these new BRVs are smaller.'
He raised another concern saying, 'Also there is a concern surrounding procurement issues. It seems as if it is a done deal with Jaguar Land Rover, without having trialled other vehicles, like Mercedes, which could turn out to be cheaper to run. We don’t need a top-of-the-range Range Rover Sport, which was used last year for a similar Targeted Response Vehicle trial.'
The authority said a research will be undertaken during the trial to monitor public and fire fighter safety, and test the performance of the new vehicles and equipment. Other trials are scheduled for Dudley and Tipton, also within the remit of the West Midlands Fire Service. Warwickshire fire service announced similar changes earlier this year as part of a modernisation and cuts plan which also saw the closure of several fire stations.