PLANNED cuts to fire stations will not be used to pay off money owed by the fire service’s commercial arm, say officers.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is currently consulting with the public over the future shape of firefighting across the two counties – which could see Porlock fire station close and other stations in Somerset have reduced coverage.

The fire service’s trading arm, Red One, is currently more than £600,000 in debt following “lower than anticipated trading performance”.

But the fire authority has pledged that any money saved from the Safer Together proposals will not be used to plug this gap or bail out the company.

Red One is the commercial trading arm of the fire service, and describes itself on its website as “the UK’s leading provider of fire and rescue training”.

It has provided firefighter training for more than 40 other fire services in the UK, as well as running driver training and maritime courses.

The company is in debt to the fire service to the tune of £673,229, according to papers published before a meeting of the fire authority’s resources committee on Wednesday (September 4).

Amy Webb, the fire authority’s director of finance and resourcing, said a plan was in place to ensure the debt was repaid and Red One would be financially self-sustaining in the years ahead.

She said: “The outstanding debt relates to cross charges for services provided by the fire service to Red One during 2016/17, and as a result of lower-than anticipated trading performance.

“A new management team has been in place since January 2018 and they have been improving the governance of Red One.

“The business plan has been shared with the fire authority and a repayment plan agreed, which will span several years.”

Neither the business plan nor information on Red One’s current financial performance have been made public, with the fire service citing commercial sensitivity.

Ms Webb stressed that no money saved through any of the Safer Together proposals would be used to prop up or bail out Red One in the future.

She said: “The accumulated debt is a one-off and performance is regularly monitored to minimise any future risk.

“The fire authority is not intending to lend any further money nor make any grants.

“Financial provision has already been made for the overdue debt with Red One and has no impact on future changes to the service.”

The fire authority is currently projecting an in-year underspend of £175,000, based on demand for its services over the first three months of 2019/20.

Ms Webb said savings from the Safer Together programme would not be assessed on the basis of in-year predictions.

She said: “The forecast savings are an estimate at present and represent a very small proportion of our overall budget.

“Given that saving money is not the primary objective of our change proposals, decisions on changing our service delivery model will be completely independent of in-year savings.”

The Safer Together consultation ends on September 22, with finalised proposals expected to come before the fire authority later in the autumn. To complete the questionnaire visit