Staff shortages mean fire service vehicles cannot be used: Lib Dems

PA

A number of fire and rescue service vehicles are unable to be used to respond to emergencies due to staffing shortages, according to the Lib Dems.

The party said a freedom of information request revealed that between November 2017 and the same month of last year, an average of 24 vehicles across the country could not be operated at any one time.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said the vehicles, which include fire engines, were “unavailable due to staffing on an average of 3.83% of the time”.

The Lib Dems said the SFRS figures show staffing problems resulted in appliances being unavailable for 4.72% of the time at fire stations across the east of Scotland, 4.58% in the west, and 2.19% in the northern area.

As of April 2018, the SFRS had 632 operational appliances, including 417 fire engines.

Lib Dem justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “These figures indicate that at any time the equivalent of 24 fire and rescue service appliances are unavailable due to staffing.

“While people should be reassured that there weren’t any incidents that the SFRS failed to respond to, staff have expressed concern about having too few firefighters to staff its appliances.

“There have been reports of stations across Edinburgh being reduced from two to one engines and vehicles in Aberdeen being stood down.

“Since the SNP’s (fire service) merger in 2013, the number of firefighters has fallen by hundreds and the service’s budget has dropped 12% in real terms.

“Staff representatives have warned that the funding squeeze will lead to more posts going and the deterioration of services.

“Our emergency services work incredibly hard and are faced with the most difficult of circumstances.

“Ministers need to ensure that staff have the resources they need to do their job, deploy the full range of appliances at their disposal and minimise the risks to both themselves and the public.”

SFRS Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay said: “We continuously review and plan the resources required on our front line, and where we identify any resourcing needs we will work with our local teams to cover that requirement and minimise any disruption in a number of ways.

“This allows us to maintain a resilient service.

“Our move to a greater prevention focus has seen fires decline by more than 40% in the last decade, and it is these results that truly matter to our communities.

“Additionally, we are committed to balancing front-line delivery with the need to continuously train our firefighters to ensure not only their safety but the communities they protect.

“The SFRS continues to attend at every emergency.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Operational decisions on the local allocation of resources are a matter for the SFRS board and chief officer.

“SFRS has responded to every emergency call in Scotland with the right resource and its delivery model has the capacity to bend and flex to changing risk and demand.”