Fire service: cost-cutting plan

DUBLIN's fire service has angrily dismissed plans to cut €3.5m from its annual budget through a reduction in am­bulance numbers, a restructuring of its control centre and a freeze on recruitment.

There are particular concerns surrounding the ambulance service in Swords, north Co Dublin, and the operation of the fire service's control centre.

Staff representative John Kidd, who has split from Siptu to join a new union with the Psychiatric Nurses Association, said cost-cutting measures proposed by management would end up costing money.

He claimed delays in getting to call-outs routinely handled by the Swords ambulance, which receives about 5,000 calls a year and which would be cut under the plans, would lead to higher costs.

"If that goes through it will end up costing the exchequer €7.2m because of longer-term stays in hospital because of delays in getting to people," he said.

There is also concern about proposals that the Health Service Executive (HSE) would take over responsibility for the control room which handles emergency call-outs. Currently, injured fire staff operate the control room when they are not fit to work.

"They want to open up a national control centre in Tallaght and the HSE to take control of the Dublin Fire Brigade ambulances," Kidd said.

"Dublin City Council would outsource anything they could tomorrow. The bottom line is that this would make no difference."

Dublin Fire Brigade has also been told there is no money for recruitment and that the retirement age will be reviewed as part of cost-cutting measures.