DUBLIN firefighters have slammed plans to strip €3.5m from their annual budget through a reduction in ambulance capacity, a restructuring of the control centre and a freeze on recruitment.

There are particular concerns surrounding the service of an ambulance in Swords, north Co Dublin.

Staff representative John Kidd, who has split from Siptu to join a new union with the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), has said cost-cutting measures proposed by management would be counter-productive.

He stressed that the axing of the Swords ambulance, which answers about 5,000 calls a year, would effectively lead to higher costs.

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

There are also serious concerns about plans for the Health Service Executive (HSE) to take over responsibility for the control room
which handles emergency call-outs.

Currently, injured fire staff are placed in the control room when they are not fit to work.

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

"Dublin City Council [which runs the fire service] would outsource anything it could tomorrow. The bottom line is that this will make no difference."

Staff have also been told that there is currently no money for further recruitment to the service, and that the retirement age is due to be reconsidered.