THE fight against proposals to reduce fire cover in Bridgwater has stepped up this week, with the area MP saying the decision ‘defies belief’.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) is consulting on service-wide changes to economise resources, including Bridgwater losing one fire appliance.

However Conservative MP for Bridgwater Ian Liddell-Grainger accused the fire authority bosses of carrying out ‘a desk-top exercise to reduce its costs without taking local conditions into account’.

And, he said, he doubted any of those drawing up the proposals had ‘taken the trouble to visit many of the locations where cuts were scheduled’.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “It all has the air of being worked out using a map in the back of a pocket diary.

“Bridgwater is growing and expanding faster than any other town in the south-west. We are attracting new industries to new factories; we are in the middle of a house-building boom; and to cap it all we have the biggest civil engineering project in Europe on our doorstep at Hinkley Point.

“And now is the time, it seems, that DSFRS deems it sensible to actually reduce cover in the area. It absolutely defies belief.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger called on Sedgemoor residents to ‘fight these proposals as vigorously as they can’ and make sure they respond to the consultation.

“I am sure DSFRS can defend its case statistically. But in the totally unpredictable world of emergency incidents it is folly to rely on statistics,” he said.

County Councillor, former firefighter and current DSFRS member Leigh Redman, said while he agreed with Mr Liddell-Grainger that people should take part in the consultation, he was frustrated with the MP’s lack of explanation as to why the fire service needs to make these cuts.

Cllr Redman said: “What frustrates me is that Mr Liddell-Grainger forgets to mention we are in this position because of his government, in fact, because of grant reductions that he has consistently voted for, supporting the Conservative government.

“Since 2011/12 DSFRS has saved £18.4m (around 20 per cent) from the service budget.”

Cllr Redman says the fire authority asked the government to let them put up their share of the council tax precept by £5 but were not listened to.

The fire authority cannot put up a precept by more than 2.99 per cent without holding an expensive referendum.

“A £5 increase would have allowed DSFRS to maintain current level of work and enhance its service, but the government chose to ignore the request, so now the authority is having to consult about station closures and fire engine cuts to make ends meet,” Cllr Redman said.

Trevor French, of the South West Fire Brigades Union said all seven proposals DSFRS are consulting on will damage fire cover in the area.

“It will take firefighters longer to get to fires, road traffic collisions and all the other calls we attend. This will put lives at risk.

“Conservative governments have imposed austerity on the fire and rescue service for the last decade, so firefighters were understandably surprised to receive support from Boris Johnson and our MP.

“Let’s be clear: Mr Liddell-Grainger and our probable future Prime Minister need to properly fund the fire service. As things stand, fire cover in Devon and Somerset is hanging by a thread.”

DSFRS assistant chief fire officer Pete Bond said: “The options that have gone out to public consultation include the removal of the third fire engine at Bridgwater.

“We have looked carefully at all of our resources across the service and have taken local factors such as response times and availability of fire engines into account when making these proposals.

“The third fire engine at Bridgwater is among a number of appliances that are under-used and the resources could be better used to protect life and property elsewhere.

"Bridgwater will retain its existing two fire engines to provide an immediate response to incidents.

“We do have financial challenges but these proposals are not about saving money, they are about moving our resources to where the risk to life is greatest.

“We have a survey on our website and will be at Bridgwater Library between noon and 4pm on Tuesday, August 27, to talk about the changes.”