Gideon Amos of the LibDems' met with fire fighters in the Fire Brigades Union at Taunton Fire Station today to press the case to save the County Town's only specialist rescue tender vehicle – call sign V61R1 – which has brought crews to major accidents on the motorway and around Taunton for over ten years. The removal of the appliance comes as the local brigade faces a whopping 24.6% funding cut by the Conservative Government.
Speaking to fire fighters at the station today Gideon said "Rescue Tender V61R1 is an old friend of the brigade and to people who have been rescued. I saw today the wealth of equipment it is packed with, from dinghies, to winches, platforms and cutting equipment – it carries the most up to date emergency equipment to cope with every rescue scenario whether caused by flood, fire or vehicle collision. Taking this away from Taunton Deane with no replacement is cost cutting gone mad and will be the first time the Taunton stretch of the M5 has been left without a specialist rescue tender on call. Given the Conservative Government’s cuts to the Devon and Somerset Service no one should be surprised if operational measures like this are being considered.”
“It is common knowledge throughout the brigade that call sign V61R1 is being considered for removal from the county. This comes as the Conservative Government is hammering our local Taunton fire brigade with a cut so vast they should have put it on the Conservative bus and driven it around the constituency. The 24.6% Government imposed cut to the service is already doing massive damage. Now we discover that our only rescue tender, so vital for saving lives at serious accidents on the roads, faces being removed from the County altogether. When it comes to putting party ideology ahead of the interests of the public these Conservatives are breaking new records.” Mr Amos wants the local Conservative MP to resign from the Government. “I invite her to back my call for a halt to this massive cut and stop the loss of V61R1.”
A fire fighters’ representative body said "We are seriously worried that response times to attend major road traffic accidents will be severely lengthened if our emergency rescue appliance is removed from Taunton. Our fire fighters are professionally trained and experienced in its use and need the appliance to do the job, losing the vehicle will mean a loss of training, skills and experience. After recent events the cuts to this service here in Somerset are beginning to look like asset stripping. They have to be halted. We're delighted to have Gideon's support - now let's see some MPs willing to stand up for these frontline services."
It is understood no final decision has yet been taken but senior officials are considering relocating the rescue tenders from Taunton and Yeovil to stations in Devon or Glastonbury, most of which are staffed only by part time ‘retained’ fire fighters and may not be able to muster the numbers needed to staff the appliance in addition to their existing engines.
LibDem County Councillor Simon Coles, who also sits as a member on the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority is asking for Taunton to be allowed to keep the emergency appliance and wants the Government to think again when it comes to the package of cuts that the Service is trying to accommodate. Cllr Coles said "Men and women in public service, especially those risking their lives as we have been reminded by recent tragic events in London, should be supported by the government. They don’t deserve to have their best equipment taken away. Taunton emergency services deserve so much better".
Gideon Amos added, “Fire fighters also deserve reasonable pay and conditions if we are to ensure high quality fire and rescue services in Taunton Deane. For Conservative MPs to keep capping the pay of these workers while they themselves have enjoyed an 11% increase over the last two years, is disgraceful. Why should fire fighters be treated worse that these MPs when it comes to pay?"