Cheshire Fire Authority approves ambitious plan for more prevention, more protection and better emergency response

Following a major consultation on proposals to strengthen Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s work in the community and improve its response to emergencies over the next four years, Cheshire Fire Authority (CFA) has today (14 February 2024) approved its 2024-2028 Community Risk Management Plan (CRMP).

The CRMP, which is the blueprint for the Service over the next four years, includes changing the way some fire engines are staffed to guarantee more are available to respond to incidents during busy weekday daytimes and to carry out more visits to homes and businesses. The plan also sets out how the Service will address risks such as an ageing population, climate change and the increasing use of lithium-ion battery technology.

Councillor Stef Nelson, Chair of Cheshire Fire Authority, said:

“I would like to thank everyone who responded to our consultation. This CRMP is a forward-looking plan which addresses key challenges and delivers even more risk-reducing prevention and protection activity, and a better emergency response, within our existing budget.
“Our plans reflect the changing nature of fire risks in our county and the likely demands on the Service in the years ahead. We’ve listened carefully to the views of the public, staff and partner agencies throughout the development of the CRMP and believe it will make Cheshire even safer in the years ahead."

Plans within the CRMP include:

  • introducing a new response standard of an average response time of ten minutes to primary fires

  • converting four on-call (part-time) fire engines at Runcorn, Winsford, Northwich and Macclesfield to full-time fire engines during weekday daytimes, meaning quicker response times and more emergency cover across Cheshire, plus extra capacity to carry out more community fire safety work

  • introducing a day-crewing staffing system at Knutsford, providing guaranteed fire cover in the area 24/7

  • reorganising the way full-time fire engines operate in the Warrington area, improving the spread of emergency cover and prevention and protection work across Birchwood and Stockton Heath

  • strengthening the on-call duty system, to make it more sustainable and more rewarding for on-call firefighters serving communities where there are fewer incidents.

Twenty full-time firefighter posts will be created through the changes, which will also see a reduction in the number of on-call firefighter posts.

Alex Waller, Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“These are exciting changes which will help us deliver more prevention, more protection and a better emergency response, keeping the communities of Cheshire even safer.
"We are grateful to everyone who took the time to take part in our consultation. The feedback we have received has been broadly very supportive. We do, however, recognise that a small group of colleagues will be directly affected by the plans. We will be working closely with them and their trade union representatives to provide support and minimise the impact of these changes.”

There are no changes to the overall number of fire engines or fire stations across Cheshire, but the plans will mean that five more full-time fire engines are guaranteed to be available during weekday daytimes. The Service will now also be able to carry out at nearly 3,000 more safety visits to homes and businesses each year.

At the same meeting, members also agreed the budget for Cheshire Fire Authority for 2024/2025. Members approved an increase in its share of council tax (called its precept) of 2.99% for the next financial year, following a consultation process which showed 65% of respondents supported the proposed rise. This will mean an increase on a Band D property of £2.61 per year, bringing the annual charge on a Band D property to £90.09.

The Fire Authority is funded through two main sources of income, local council tax and central government funding. Council tax makes up over two thirds of the Authority's total funding. Although the changes to Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service within its new CRMP will be delivered within its existing budget, there are still financial pressures facing the Authority due to continued high inflation. This includes pay increases for firefighters and staff, which while negotiated on a national basis, will need to be paid for by the Authority.

Following the approval of the 2024/25 budget, Chair of Cheshire Fire Authority, Cllr Stef Nelson said:

"We recognise that household finances are tight and many are feeling the impact from increases to the cost of living. The Authority is also facing continued funding pressures as a result of inflation on goods and services. This is a modest increase which enables the Authority to meet these pressures, anticipates a realistic pay agreement for staff and maintains the services we provide to the community to keep the people of Cheshire safe."