The Milton Keynes Labour Party have claimed that fire stations in Milton Keynes are being 'routinely closed' for periods of time due to a lack of available staff.
The claims come after local councillor Zoe Nolan has tweeted on a number of occasions in the past few weeks that Great Holm Fire Station has been closed on several occasions recently.
The Labour Party have claimed that the firefighters based in Great Holm at the time were transferred to Aylesbury to maintain cover in central Buckinghamshire.
Bucks Fire and Rescue have said that resources may be moved around the area on a daily basis to where they are needed the most.
Leader of Milton Keynes Council, Cllr Peter Marland, said: “The Tory Government has cut £165m from fire services since 2010 as part of their austerity measures. If that is combined with Conservative mismanagement at a local level on the Authority such as foolishly cutting the precept four years ago and the plan to run a Northamptonshire-style budget using reserves, I fear that the service is one major incident away from a catastrophic failure.”
“We have reached a point where Milton Keynes stations are being routinely closed and staff transferred to other stations to make up shortfalls in staffing numbers. The service is operating on a skeleton basis. I fear if Great Holm station is closed as planned, this will only get worse. The service is struggling to keep existing firefighters and while it has moved to an operating model of fewer full time staff to cope with cuts, it is simply not operating with enough retained staff to make that model work properly."
"I genuinely believe we are in a situation where we have been lucky, but I fear a situation where there is a major incident in two parts of the service area on a night when cover stretched. It would only take something to happen in the M1 at the same time as a major fire, and the service will fail if cover from other authorities are operational at the same time. It is hugely concerning. Lives are at risk.”
“The situation is clearly very serious. The Tory members of the authority need to understand that it is not just a matter of budgets, but some of their decisions have made Bucks Fire Service wobble. I worry about the resilience of the service in an emergency."
The issue of firefighters being assigned from Great Holm fire station to Aylesbury was raised at the annual meeting of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority in Aylesbury on Wednesday.
But fire chiefs say the way they organise their staff means they have been able to organise their firefighters in a way that covers Milton Keynes more than adequately.
After the meeting, Mick Osborne, the deputy chief fire officer, said: “The people of Milton Keynes can be assured that they are as safe as they can be with the services that we provide."
“We’ve gone through ten years of budget reductions and austerity but we still provide the same levels of service in Milton Keynes that we did ten years ago."
“No fire stations have been closed. We manage our resources on a daily basis across both Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire and we move resources around to wherever we might need them."
“We manage our resources every day and every night. Some days there may be a shortage in one area of a particular skill and we may need to move an individual or a crew to cover that at any particular time."
“On a daily basis, we will move resources around to where they are needed the most.”
Fire staff were praised in the meeting by fire chief Jason Thelwell who said that years of austerity have meant the service has been looking at different ways of working.
The authority also heard that the fire service is facing the prospect of running out of financial reserves in the next few years if budgetary arrangements do not change. There is uncertainty over what might happen during the next government spending review.
Mr Thelwell said: “A number of changes have been made but staff have always come with us. They believe in what we do. The medium-term financial outlook is worrying but with our staff I know we will get through it.”
Additional reporting by Local Democracy Reporter David Tooley.