ANGRY union leaders say the loss of eight fire engines and the axing of 45 firefighter posts will put lives at risk as the service is 'cut to the bone'.

The letter, sent to 25 councillors, highlights the Fire Brigades Union's concerns about the loss of eight fire engines and the downgrade of a ninth fire engine to nights only.

Neil Bevan, brigade secretary, already described proposed cuts as ones that 'present a serious threat to public and firefighter safety'.

Last December he said the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service was 'already stretched dangerously thin'.

"The fire authority should be investing in the service, but instead they are proposing cutting it to the bone. Firefighters will not sit back and allow homes and lives to be put on the line. We will fight to save our service,” he said.

A letter was sent out to Fire Authority members on January 22 this year, signed by brigade secretary Neil Bevan and brigade chair Trevor Connolly.

The document lays out a string of grievances such as the cutting of 45 firefighter posts, including through 'compulsory redundancies'.

However, the information shared by the FBU has been disputed by the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service which says relations with the FBU have become 'strained' and that the letter is a 'misrepresentation' of the organisation.

Cllr Richard Udall, a member of the Fire Authority, said: “The letter from the Fire Bridges Union has been received, it raises a lot of issues some of which are operational concerns which are not for members of the authority. 

"However, I take all correspondence from representative bodies seriously and will be having discussions with other elected members and senior officers regarding some of the concerns raised."

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Complaints also revolve around what the FBU has described as 'the misuse of public funds to undertake countless investigations' and a 'massive loss of money from the property budget due to a failure to repair or replace fuel efficiency devices'.

Further grievances include 'the lack of meaningful consultation on multiple policies, including the issuing of policies that do not comply with the nationally agreed scheme of conditions of service' and 'the mismanagement of the on-call duty system though the On-call Project, which despite a large amount of money spent, has had a detrimental impact of on-call availability'.

"Due to these issues we are considering balloting our members over their confidence in the Chief Fire Officer and the Senior Leadership Board.

"The FBU believe that as a member of the Fire and Rescue Authority you have a moral duty to meet with us to be able to investigate these concerns further," the letter says.

A spokesperson for the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service said: "We do not accept the allegations and statements in the FBU's letter, which are a misrepresentation of several matters affecting HWFRS and are lacking any evidence and completely without context. 

"Where these matters have been raised in the last year or more, they have already been considered and addressed.

"As is published on our website we have recently undertaken a comprehensive staff survey conducted by an external provider, an independent external cultural review of the Service, alongside the outcome of the HMICFRS inspection all undertaken last year. These three published documents involved gathering evidence from many hundreds of HWFRS staff and provide a clear picture of positive organisation as regards our leadership, culture and people, which is starkly in contrast to the view expressed by the local FBU officials.

"HWFRS recognises a number of Trade Unions, not just the FBU and the Service has good professional relationships with all these other trade unions. Unfortunately, relations between the Service and local FBU officials are strained at present, partly as a result of recent staff disciplinary decisions and some ongoing organisational change.

"Officers and managers across the Service take considerable time to regularly liaise with staff from across the organisation, and the views expressed in the FBU letter do not seem to represent the views of the majority of staff, and the Fire Authority elected Members regularly scrutinise and hold officers to account."