Fire service at risk

BUDLEIGH Salterton's fire service will be at risk if a controversial European Union directive is imposed on the United Kingdom.

BUDLEIGH Salterton's fire service will be at risk if a controversial European Union directive is imposed on the United Kingdom.Campaigners claim moves to force Britain to adopt the European Working Time Directive would leave the part-time, retained fire service, which covers the town "unviable" because it would be illegal for anyone to work more than 48 hours a week. Exmouth and Topsham retained fire services would also be affected. Budleigh Salterton town mayor Chris Kitson said: "This is another European nonsense. It's time for us to take the lead in this country, in real-life situations that support and look after the community."Deputy mayor Courtney Richards said: "I am horrified by the implications of this directive."The firefighters at Budleigh Salterton provide vital local cover to the town and anything that would jeopardise this would be a retrograde step."I am hopeful that some way will be found to get around this directive, particularly for people carrying out roles that are vital to the wellbeing of the community. "Who will be next - St John Ambulance workers, the coastguard? "This country will grind to a halt unless the UK takes back control of rules regarding its own people and stops blindly implementing all directives that come from the EU."Budleigh Salterton fire station, in Station Road, offers round-the-clock cover thanks to the retained fire crew - the majority of whom hold day jobs on top of their commitment to the service. The UK has been granted an "opt out" of the directive, but, following a vote by the European Parliament this is due to be scrapped in 2012 - meaning many retained firefighters would be unable to legally juggle both jobs. Replacing retained firefighters, who earn on average between �5,000 and �8,000 a year for agreeing to be "available" for up to 120 hours per week, with 24-hour whole-time cover would be extremely expensive.Fears have been raised that a 48-hour week will cripple retained crews and threaten the future of rural fire services. John Barton, general secretary of the Retained Firefighters' Union said: "If we lost this opt-out then the retained fire service becomes unviable. If people are using up to 48 hours in their primary employment, they haven't got any hours left to devote to public service."Devon and Somerset Deputy Chief Fire Officer Neil Gibbins said The Chief Fire Officers' Association (CFOA) has expressed its concerns over the directive's impact and believes it has "largely overlooked" the effect on the retained firefighters. The CFOA said the directive would not lead to "wholesale sackings" and it has been "urgently lobbying" ministers to resolve the matter. l County councillor Stuart Hughes has launched a petition to the Prime Minister's office to ensure retained firefighters are excluded from the directive. To sign the petition go to