The number of firefighters based in Banbury could be cut in half under new proposals in Oxfordshire County Council’s budget.
The Cope Road station currently operates a 24-hour shift model with four watches consisting of full-time staff. But by 2016/2017 the shift pattern could switch to a two-watch system, with firefighters working for four straight days and staying at station accommodation to save the council £360,000.
A member of Banbury Fire Station has voiced concern about the heavy workload for firefighters if the shift numbers were to be reduced. The firefighter, who did not wish to be named, said: “I can understand why the council wants to save money, but it is important to realise all the good work we do with risk assessments at businesses to help prevent fires will be lost.
“Banbury is an expanding town and I think it is short-sighted to only have a five-year plan – how can we continue that workload on fewer shifts?”
Under the four-day working system firefighters could stay in portable buildings at the station.
An Oxfordshire County Council spokesperson said that Banbury would still have 24/7 cover and a decision will be made in February.
He said: “A working group involving employees at Banbury has been set up regarding possible changes to shift patterns and accommodation needs but with no decisions having yet been made.
“The proposed saving relates to having fewer firefighters employed overall at the stations.
“There would still be the same number of firefighters crewing fire engines as there are now at any one time, with no reduction in the number of fire engines.”
Councillor Tony Ilott, lead member for public protection at Cherwell District Council, said: “Firefighters issuing safety messages and people installing smoke detectors at home have seen the number of call outs reduced.
“A fire officer told me this shouldn’t be a problem.”