NEGOTIATORS from the county’s fire service are locked in talks with firefighters’ union representatives over a cost-cutting plan which could hit frontline staff.

According to the Fire Brigades Union up to 30 frontline fire brigade posts could be axed as part of cost-cutting measures in the service as Wiltshire Fire and Rescue bid to save £1.8m by the end of 2014.

And Brent Thorley, the secretary of the Wiltshire branch of the FBU, said negotiations were at an advanced stage but details were being kept under wraps.

He said: “It’s positive and we are talking. The plan was set in stone when it went out to consultation earlier this year but we are talking about other options now.

“We have decided to keep it confidential until we have got something solid. There is a big concern there will be further cuts and that changes things.

“Our members are getting a bit restless because during the consultation there was lots of talk and feedback but now that has just stopped.

“It depends on the individual as to how they are dealing with it – some want to know the answer now and move on, while others are happy the status quo remains.”

The FBU also said under the original plan the number of aerial appliances would be halved to one, while four emergency tenders used for road accidents and building collapses would be removed.

A rope and water rescue team, used for places with difficult access, would be cut from ten to five staff, the union claimed.

And  retained firefighters are also said to be facing cutbacks equivalent to one in three full-time posts.

Mr Thorley said any cuts could lead to lives being put at risk if attendance times were to fall.
“You’ve certainly got to think it could affect the service,” he said.

“If you reduce the number of firefighters there will be a change in the way we work. We will not have the presence we do now and attendance times may get longer.

“Any delay in anything we do affects the outcome. Someone who is rescued from a basic domestic fire within five minutes could escape with superficial burns, within eight minutes they would suffer serious injuries and anything over ten minutes would be dead.”

A spokeswoman for Wiltshire Fire and Rescue said: “Negotiations with FBU are ongoing and until such time as a decision is reached they will not be made public.”