Councillors and union members in Corby have condemned a proposal to scrap one of the town’s fire engines.
The county’s chief fire officer, Martyn Emberson, addressed Corby Borough Council yesterday evening (Thursday, January 15), a few days after the conclusion of a consultation on the service’s future plans.
Among the proposals is the replacement of Corby’s second pump with a Cobra intervention vehicle, pictured below.
The Cobra vehicle includes the latest fire-fighting technology – but critics say existing engines already have those capabilities.
And the new vehicle would also only be manned by two crew members, limiting what action they could take if they are the first to arrive at the scene of some blazes.
A cross-party motion to request a meeting with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue decision-makers in order to try to reverse the plan to scrap the second pump and come up with an alternative was carried unanimously by members of the borough council’s overview and scrutiny committee.
The motion, proposed by Cllr Chris Stanbra, read: “That the committee opposes cuts to Fire Officer personnel at Corby and recommends that all councillors, both Borough and County oppose them and that Corby Borough Council and Andy Sawford MP do so too. The committee asks that the Fire Service and the Portfolio Holder do sit down with all parties to work out an alternative.”
The fire service is run by the county council, with portfolio holder Cllr Andre Gonzalez de Savage attending the meeting alongside Mr Emberson.
The Fire Brigades Union’s Gary Mitchell told the meeting the proposals were contrary to the values firefighters held dear.
He added: “It will compromise the safety of both the public and firefighters.
“We have had this Cobra equipment on the Corby appliance for five years now and it hasn’t rescued anyone from a house or cut them out of a car.
“This proposal is nothing more than a cost-cutting exercise.”
FBU colleague Dave Scholefield said a petition demanding the town keeps both fire engines, which has receieved about 5,000 signatures, showed the strength of feeling locally.
He added: “I am hopeful that the politicians will take heed, take notice and make the right decision.
“The town is an expanding town, it’s one of the biggest expanding towns in the country.”
The FBU campaign received support from borough councillors from all parties. Labour’s Cllr Peter Petch labelled the plan “disgraceful”, with Lib Dem Cllr Stanbra proposing the motion which outlined the committee’s opposition to the proposals.
Conservative Cllr Rob McKellar received a round of applause from FBU members in the public gallery when he called for fire spending to be ring-fenced, adding: “These proposals are unacceptable to people in Corby and the surrounding areas.”
But Mr Emberson insisted the safety of fire crews or the public at large would never be put at risk.
He also said that while Cobra – which features special high-powered hoses infused with pieces of metal, allowing the hoses to cut through even concrete walls – had been in Corby for five years, the proposals were for the next generation of the technology, which included a lot more fire-fighting capabilites.
And Mr Emberson added that there had already been well over 1,000 responses to the public consultation – and he promised would read every comment personally.
On Monday (January 12), Corby MP Andy Sawford led a debate in Parliament on the future of fire cover in the town.
He said: “There are currently two Cobra facilities at Corby. They sit on two proper pumps. Four firefighters man those pumps. We are talking about going down to one proper pump with four firefighters and a van with this equipment on the back of it.”
Read more Corby news here.