The future of three West Norfolk fire stations will be secured if council tax rises to keep them open.
A Norfolk County Council committee has approved plans to remove more than £800,000 worth of proposed savings from its budget in return for a 0.27 per cent rise in tax.
The increase, which would add around £3 a year, would enable controversial proposals to close the fire stations in Heacham, Outwell and West Walton to be scrapped.
It would also reverse other planned cuts to the fire service, museums and library services.
But the plan, which was backed by the authority’s communities committee in Norwich yesterday, still needs to be ratified by another committee and the full council before being implemented.
Michael Williamson, chairman of the Heacham parish council, said a short time ago: “It’s a positive step in the right direction, but we remain cautious about what happens at subsequent meetings.”
The scheme will have to be passed by both the policy and resources committee meeting on February 8 and the full council on February 22 before it is implemented.
But officials say the recommendations, if approved by full council, would mean that all retained stations would stay open and the only change in appliances would be measures that have already been approved.
That includes the provision of a lightweight 4x4 vehicle at the Sandringham station instead of a second full-time appliance.
The move came the day after the county’s Conservative group confirmed it would block any attempts to close threatened stations if it came before the key policy and resources committee, which will discuss the budget early next month.
The party has a majority on that committee and leader Cliff Jordan said: “We refuse to let the council play fast and loose with public safety.
“People in the affected areas have spoken loud and clear about their concerns.
“For too long, the leadership at county hall has shown a cavalier attitude towards local residents, and towards the precious front-line services that people in our county value.”
Union leaders have also warned that fires in and around Lynn could have more serious consequences if plans to reduce overnight emergency cover in the town, which officials have confirmed are still a possibility, are implemented.
Pete Greeves, of the Norfolk Fire Brigades Union, said that would increase risk for residents hit by overnight fires and those living around them.
He highlighted a recent blaze in Nelson Street, where the town’s current overnight crew was among the first on the scene.
He said: “It was 50-50 whether they could stop it. They were on the point of withdrawing and fighting it from outside and you’d have lost that whole row of houses.”
He is worried that a retained crew would take longer to respond to such an incident.
A county council spokesman said a final decision would be made by either the chief fire officer or senior council officials.
She added: “That decision would be subject to whether we can get better public and firefighter safety outcomes by using those firefighters in other ways, for example by bolstering rural accident response.”