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Cheshire fire crew downgrade decision overturned

20 February 2018

A TWO-YEAR campaign by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has lead to the reversal of a decision to downgrade fire appliances at Crewe and Ellesmere Port from full time to on call.

Following the Cheshire Fire Authority’s approval to downgrade both stations’ appliances, the vote for the review, which the union pushed heavily for, eventually took place on 14 February. The result was a majority vote of cross party authority members who sensibly rejected the service’s proposals. They voted instead to keep two full time appliances at Crewe, and maintain the full time appliance at Ellesmere Port whilst commissioning a review to look at relocating it.

FBU brigade secretary Andrew Fox-Hewitt said: “Ahead of the meeting on 14 February, FBU officials set about a vigorous 12-month campaign, visiting trades councils, Labour party wards, Constituency Labour Party meetings, meetings with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, Cheshire MP’s both in their constituencies and in London, and the Police and Crime Commissioner.

"Activists knocked on doors and ran campaign stalls in the two town centres, and we developed a media strategy. This broad coalition of political and community support culminated in a 150-strong lobby of the authority on the morning of the meeting, followed by a meeting in the public gallery which everyone attended. At the start of the meeting the service sought to secure a so called compromise which would see a nucleus system introduced instead (day duty system). This was rejected by the FBU and the authority.

"Our efforts paid off.  The decision has saved 40 posts, all of whom are FBU members. It was a joyous moment in the meeting as the vote came in, and FBU members all across the county have been in touch to say they are proud of their officials and union.

"We know the fight isn’t over. We need to bring about a fit for purpose funding settlement from central government, and we have to put an end to the stockpiling of reserves by fire and rescue authorities. But this was a significant victory, and one we felt worth sharing because it proves that campaigning really can work, and that it’s worth keeping going even when the odds seem stacked against you.  Bottom line is that FBU members refused to allow firefighter and public safety to be put at risk."