A referendum should be held on Hereford and Worcester fire and rescue serviceâ€™s plans to remove five fire engines and cut jobs, local firefighters have said.
The local Fire Brigades Union said lives would be put at risk if plans to remove fire engines from stations in Hereford, Worcester, Ledbury, Redditch and Tenbury Wells were implemented.
Last weekend, firefighters in Hereford and Worcester city centres collected 2,400 signatures for their petition against the cuts: more than two and a half times more responses than the brigadeâ€™s 12-week public consultation on the proposals last year (920).
Seven petitions with over 9,500 signatures objecting to either budget reductions or the removal of pumps from local stations were submitted to the consultation, but the brigade only counted these as seven responses because they were “organised outside the main consultation process and were either concerned in general about the overall funding reductions or were concerned specifically about reductions in fire cover in certain fire station areas.”
Firefighters said they would be in both cities again on Saturday 24 May to collect more signatures.
Julian Jenkins, FBU chair for Hereford and Worcester, said: â€œIf local politicians are so confident these cuts are in the public interest, why not allow a referendum?
â€œWeâ€™ve collected thousands of signatures against the proposals, yet most people had never heard of their consultation.
â€œAs well as worrying about their safety, local people are rightly concerned that they will be paying the same amount of council tax for a much reduced service.â€
In February Conservative Party Councillor, Phil Grove, was suspended by his local party for siding with Labour Party efforts to increase funding for the brigade by Â£500,000.
The FBU says that average response times for Hereford and Worcester had slowed by around 90 seconds over the last four years as a result of cuts.
In their consultation document, the fire service admitted that â€œin some cases [fire engines] will not arrive as quickly as [they] did before.”
In a recent meeting with firefighters, Sajid Javid, Conservative MP for Bromsgrove, said that he was not concerned by response times increasing by two or three minutes and would only raise his concerns if they went up by five or 10 minutes