EU threat to Sidmouth fire service
SIDMOUTH S Fire Service will be at risk if a controversial European Union directive is imposed on the United Kingdom, according to campaigners.
SIDMOUTH'S Fire Service will be at risk if a controversial European Union directive is imposed on the United Kingdom, according to campaigners.
It is claimed moves to force Britain to adopt the European Working Time Directive would leave the part-time, retained fire service which covers Sidmouth "unviable" because it would be illegal for anyone to work more than 48 hours a week.
Sidmouth Fire Station offers round the clock through 20 retained fire fighters, the majority of whom hold day jobs on top of their commitment to the service.
The UK has been granted an "opt out" of the directive, but, following a vote by the European Parliament this is due to be scrapped in 2012- meaning many retained fire fighters would be able to legally juggle both jobs.
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Replacing retained firefighters, who earn on average between �5,000 and �8,000 a year for agreeing to be "available" for up to 120 hours per week, with 24-hour whole-time cover would be extremely expensive, leading to fears that a 48-hour week will cripple retained crews and threaten the future of rural fire services.
Sidmouth Councillor Stuart Hughes fears a worst case scenario could see lives put at risk as fire stations close and has launched a petition to the Prime Minister's office to ensure retained fir-fighters are excluded from the directive.
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He said: "Our retained fire fighters provide a really special service in protecting our community 24 hours a day."
John Barton, general secretary of the Retained Firefighters' Union said: "If we lost this opt-out then the retained fire service becomes unviable. If people are using up to 48 hours in their primary employment, they haven't got any hours left to devote to public service."
Devon and Somerset Deputy Chief Fire Officer Neil Gibbins said The Chief Fire Officers' Association (CFOA) has expressed its concerns over the directive's impact and believes it has "largely overlooked" the effect on the retained firefighters.
The CFOA said the directive would not lead to "wholesale sackings" and it has been "urgently lobbying" ministers to resolve the matter.
To sign Cllr Hughes' petition go to http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/firefightershrs/.