SOME fire stations may permanently close across NSW as the emergency service faces some “tough decisions” to cut costs.
As part of the state government’s 1.2 per cent annual labour expense cap announced in last month’s budget, Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) spokesman Andrew Parsons said that “everything is on the table” as it looks at cost savings.
This includes the permanent closure of some fire stations across NSW.
“Commissioner (Greg) Mullins is quoted as saying to staff, ‘To address these cost savings some tough decisions will have to be made’,” Mr Parsons told AAP on Sunday.
Fairfax newspapers reported on Sunday that FRNSW would see its wages budget slashed by $30 million over the next four years.
To combat this, Fairfax reported that FRNSW was considering temporarily closing stations if firefighters were sick or have an unplanned absence. Instead of funding relief staff, firefighters would operate out of the nearest station during that shift.
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NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson said the plan would blow-out emergency response times, with up to eight stations out of 70 in Sydney unattended at any one time.
“The O’Farrell government’s plan to close down fire stations will mean fewer firefighters responding to emergencies and longer response times as trucks are forced to travel from further out,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
“It’s hard to imagine a more irresponsible or dangerous cut to public services.”
But Mr Parsons said fire stations across NSW often went offline temporarily for training and major fire incidents and that no figures had been confirmed.
“If stations need to go offline due to illness or staffing shortages, FRNSW has a number of contingencies to move resources as we already do on a daily basis,” he said.
“The safety of the NSW community remains the primary focus.”