FIREFIGHTERS in Worcestershire and Herefordshire are calling for a referendum over plans to cut fire engines across the counties.

The Hereford and Worcester branch of the Fire Brigades Union has collected 2,400 signatures on a petition against proposed service cuts.

In a bid to save £4.7 million by 2016/17 Hereford and Worcester Fire Service has proposed to cut a number of engines across the region.

Plans include cutting a full-time engine from Worcester and Hereford as well as one on-call unit from Redditch, removing one of two on-call engines each from Bromyard, Ledbury and Tenbury or removing an appliance each from north and south Worcestershire as well as north and south Herefordshire.

The plans were due to be decided at a meeting of the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority in February, but the decision was deferred until June.

The Fire Brigades Union’s chairman for Hereford and Worcester Julian Jenkins said only 920 responses had been received to a public consultation into the plans last year and he was concerned people had not been given a proper say in the plans.

“If local politicians are so confident these cuts are in the public interest, why not allow a referendum?,” he said.

“We’ve collected thousands of signatures against the proposals, yet most people had never heard of their consultation.

“As well as worrying about their safety, local people are rightly concerned that they will be paying the same amount of council tax for a much reduced service.”

Members of the union will be out and about in both Hereford and Worcester on Saturday, May 24 collecting more signatures.

Worcester fire station currently has three fire-engines – two crewed by whole-time firefighters and the third by on-call firefighters.

Crews from Worcester Fire Station deal with an average of 1,423 incidents a year.

Removing a full-time engine from the station would save £752,450 a year this financial year 2014/15 and would also mean 22 firefighters would lose their jobs.

Concerns have also been raised that response times to incidents will suffer if the plans go ahead.

A spokesman from Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service said the plans would be discussed at a public meeting of the fire authority on Monday, June 9 and it would not be appropriate for the service to comment further until then.