North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority have voted in favour of cutting five fire engines in the county and replacing them with smaller Tactical Response Vehicles (TRV).
At a meeting of the authority on Wednesday, December 9, members voted by 10 to 6 in favour of replacing one wholetime crewed standard appliance in Harrogate, Malton, Northallerton, Ripon and Tadcaster.
The decision comes after 13 weeks of consultation which saw 1,125 responses to the Internet survey with between 77 per cent and 85 per cent ‘against’ or ‘strongly against’ the plans.
Concerns over public and firefighter safety, delayed response time, recruiting retained duty staff (RDS) and the capability of TRVs were recurring issues raised by those who responded.
However, head of risk management Owen Hayward said that, during the consultation, nothing had come to light that would change the initial conclusion reported to the authority in December.
He said: “There is an over provision of resource compared to risk and there are six stations where changes are proposed that are over-resourced compared to the risk.
“The concerns that have been raised through the consultation are no doubt genuine, but are not necessarily evidence based.
“The meetings with political leaders, as well as those attended that came to the public events, showed once the proposed changes have been fully explained there is less concern and a much greater level of support.”
Mr Hayward argued that, despite being smaller and carrying less equipment, TRVs would be able to undertake ‘meaningful activity’ when they arrived first on the scene at an incident.
The authority expects to save £1.78m a year by deploying the TRVs with £476,000 saved by replacing one fire engine at Harrogate station.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) held a protest outside of the meeting in Easingwold claiming the move would put lives at risk.
Steve Howley, North Yorkshire’s FBU brigade secretary, said the decision to cut the fire engines and replace them with TRVs was the ‘most defining’ in the service’s history.
He said: “It does not matter what size the appliance is, if it is crewed with only two firefighters it is almost useless as an effective rescue capability.
“It is clear to members these proposals place an even larger burden on an RDS service already at breaking point, with no evidence of how recruitment and retention will be achieved.
“The risk is still there and this is a step too far, a view shared by the public and business of North Yorkshire.”
Former Ripon City councillor Bernard Bateman and Tadcaster Town councillor Chris Metcalfe both voted in favour of the proposals.
Coun Metcalfe said: “It’s about weighing up the facts. We have a responsibility to provide an effective and efficient service for North Yorkshire and I don’t think the service or safety will be compromised because of this.”