Fire strikes ‘are an option’

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A FIRE service union has warned it may consider industrial action over plans to move a 999 call centre to Cambridgeshire.

But protestors have been told that the alternative to the controversial move would be to shut fire stations across the county.

A business case for the move from Milton Keynes to Huntingdon is set to be presented in March.

At a lively meeting on Wednesday, representatives from the Fire Brigades Union were not allowed to speak, after it was put to a vote.

Following the meeting, James Wolfenden, Bucks branch secretary said industrial action was an option in order to protect 25 jobs.

He said: “Industrial action is something we might have to consider. They’re pushing us down this road, and that’s not right.”

Mr Wolfenden said fire service staff were worried moving the control room out of Bucks would affect response times, as operators would not have local knowledge.

Under plans being weighed up, Bucks Fire and Rescue Service is set to link up with its counterparts in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to move into the control room.

The authority, which has to slash £4.8million from its budget by 2017, says it will save £600,000 each year by moving its emergency control centre, which is pencilled in for 2013.

Vice chairman Andy Dransfield told the meeting: “I’m very clear in my mind that if it’s a choice between taking away a fire station, and the significant impact that would have on public safety, and moving the control room to Cambridge, without any impact on the safety of the public, I would take the second option.

“This has to be a rational decision, not an emotive one.”

Authority members were told staff affected by the move would be offered other positions if they became available.

But bosses said they would be trying to avoid compulsory redundancies.

Chief fire officer Mark Jones said: “It’s certain that I will preside over compulsory redundancies if staff don’t show flexibility.”

Service bosses deny moving the control room out of Bucks would impact on response times, and Mr Jones accused critics with ‘dressing up’ staff issues as public safety concerns.