Nick Smith MP has expressed severe doubts about the fire service’s financial control after discovering they spend £346,839 a year leasing their 152-strong light vehicle fleet.
The Blaenau Gwent MP discovered the number just days before the end of a consultation into Blaina Fire Station’s future, which is facing closure to make savings of £250,000 a year.
The massive figure is being spent on everything from senior staff cars that can double as on-call vehicles to non-operational staff cars and a car pool for staff working in the community.
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, facing a loss of revenue of up to 12% in the next three years, have argued their 152-strong light vehicle fleet is a cost-effective way to reduce risk to communities.
But with this pool outnumbering the 96 SWFRS fire engines, Mr Smith is arguing this is proof not enough is being done to protect frontline services.
After weeks of wrangling to obtain the numbers, Mr Smith was eventually supplied with a breakdown of the £2.5m vehicle costs of the service. £185,194 is spent on a 63-car pool for staff in the Community Safety and Business Fire Safety teams to work across the service area. £130,182 is spent on 74 Emergency Response Vehicles, which are available to officers above the rank of Station Manager to provide on-call cover.
These are classed as emergency vehicles as they are fitted with flashing lights and audible warning devices, coupled with communications equipment. Finally a further £31,463 is spent on 15 vehicles for non-operational staff to provide on-call availability across South Wales.
Speaking after receiving the figures, Mr Smith said: “To me this shows SWFRS are just not being tough enough on their own costs and are going for the wrong targets.
“I am sure some of these vehicles are needed, but 152 feels excessive -; especially as this fleet’s costs are far beyond that of manning and running a fire station in Blaina.
“I think any reasonable member of the public would rather fire fighters in their community than this very large suite of vehicles.
“Instead, they are set to strip jobs from our community and close a station with great importance to the area and the service. When you see this sort of financial flabbiness, coupled with more than £100,000 spent on their communications team, it makes you wonder if there aren’t other costs they could be getting a grip on.”
NB: All figures are for the financial year 2012/13