A petition rejecting “further” cuts to Hertfordshire’s Fire and Rescue Service that could impact jobs has been started by the leader of a political party.

Labour Group Leader Nigel Bell started the campaign in response to draft plans published by Hertfordshire County Council that he says will see cuts in the number of county firefighters and downgrading of a fire engine.

Mr Bell said he was “concerned” about proposals in the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) which could see the replacement of a fire engine at Watford Fire Station with a “4x4 vehicle”. 

He went on to say Labour reject any reduction in firefighter numbers or loss of fire engines across Hertfordshire.

Derek MacLeod, chair of Hertfordshire’s Fire Brigade Union, said: “We are disappointed and surprised to see that the IRMP is a cuts package. 

“It is hidden behind smoke and mirrors, making it hard for the fire crew and the public to see how it is going to affect the public. 

“In the first instance we will see crew sizes reduced and equipment cut. It is a continuation of austerity policy.”

Cllr Bell added: “We cannot accept these proposed cuts, that’s why we are launching a campaign to fight them.”

Labour councillor for Leggatts ward, Asif Khan, said: “We were told austerity has ended, but in reality it is continuing to bring misery. 

“Our vital fire service is facing more cuts. It needs more investment and equipment. We can’t get rid of one of our fire engines. If we need a 4x4 in Watford, then we should have it on top of the existing fire engines.”

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said in response the IRMP process will be discussed by councillors this week before going out to public consultation in December. 

Adding: "We welcome all responses to the consultation or petitions if residents prefer that method of making their views known.

"One of the proposals is to trial the use of a 4x4 vehicle and details of this are in the plan. The exact nature of the vehicle will be governed by the proposed role it would take, if this initiative goes ahead."

Speaking about cuts to firefighter numbers, Chief Fire Officer, Darryl Keen, said: “We’re not sure where the FBU’s figures have come from; they certainly aren’t from the IRMP.

"We’re actually trying to increase firefighter numbers at the moment and we have 48 new recruits starting their basic training next year. We do not expect to make any redundancies at this time.

"Some people’s roles might change, but that’s nothing new. Firefighters’ jobs have changed enormously over the last few decades and that’s going to continue.”

To learn more about the petition, visit https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savehertsfireservice