Fire chiefs say response times will be hit by 20 mph speed limit
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
Senior fire and rescue officers have said response times will be affected by the default 20mph speed limit across Wales.
Apart from special exemptions, the speed limits of all former 30mph roads have been reduced to 20mph following the new legislation being introduced last month.
Whilst firefighters can exceed the speed limit in fire engines, those travelling to fire stations in a private vehicle must abide by the 20mph law.
When asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service if the new 20mph speed limit would affect response times, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s head of response Paul Jenkinson admitted it would.
“The reduction in speed to 20mph may cause a slight delay in our response times to incidents,” said Mr Jenkinson.
“However, given the exemption from the speed limits in law, fire appliances (engines) can go above the speed limit.”
This same opinion was delivered by North Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s assistant chief fire officer Stuart Millington.
Mr Millington was delivering a presentation to members of Conwy Council’s finance and resources overview and scrutiny committee when senior fire officers were explaining controversial proposals to close or scale back operations at several North Wales Fire Stations.
During the meeting, Conwy councillor Sian Grady, who was concerned Conwy station could close, asked if response times would be affected.
Mr Millington said: “In terms of the 20mph speed limit, that’s a complex subject in its own right with lots of opinion and debate that we are already aware of.
“We did provide a consultation response in relation to the 20mph response, and it was debated, and we provide information on what that would mean for response times for on-call firefighters.
Of course, whole-time firefighters have exemptions.
“When we are in a fire engine, we can exceed speed limits.
“But when our staff are responding from their home address or from work to the fire station, then they do have to apply to those 20mph restrictions.
“So we did provide feedback and make our representations, but ultimately we have to apply the law, and you are quite right – it will have an impact on response times.”
The fire service is reassessing its resources and how it can get to rural areas sooner, but the proposed reorganisation could mean reducing cover in other areas by cutting 24-hour service in favour of day cover and reducing equipment.
Fire officers presented three different options to councillors, including one which would see Conwy’s fire station closed together with those at Llanberis, Beaumaris, Abersoch, and Cerrigydrudion.
A public consultation on the matter has now ended, and a final decision is expected in December.
Mr Millington said the decision would be made by fire authority members but added public opinion was strong.
He said: “I think the fire authority members – and this is a members’ decision not an officer decision – I think the fire authority members felt that with the economic climate being as it was, it was only right and proper to include an option that saved some money.
“And the kind of money that needed to be saved could only be achieved by including options that included station closures.
“So the authority members wanted to consult the public on that.
“I think that it’s been very clear from the consultations that have taken place in those station areas what the strength of feeling is from the public in those five station areas, and that’ll certainly be taken on board by fire authority members when they reconvene to debate this issue.
“So that’s why it was included. It was felt that it was right and proper.”
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