A weekly newspaper’s campaign to save a town’s fire engine from the axe has achieved success after a council scrapped its plans.
The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald started a campaign in November to save one of Penrith’s two fire engines, which was proposed to be taken out of service under budget cuts.
Cumbria County Council was also proposing to cut fire engine capacity from two to one at four other stations in the county – Kendal, Maryport, Workington and Whitehaven – to save Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service £540,000 each year
But the authority decided last week to scrap the removal of the second fire engines at all five stations after the newspaper’s campaign and huge public outcry over the proposal.
The Herald’s campaign saw it produce posters for readers to display and also printed a form on which people could register their disapproval of the proposal, which more than 1,000 people completed.
A public rally and march was also held in Penrith last month, which was attended by hundreds of people, and more than 13,000 people signed a petition.
In an comment piece about the success, editor Colin Maughan wrote: “‘You’ll never do it’ … ‘their minds are made up’. These were a couple of the doubts expressed when this newspaper, with the support of the retained firefighters, first established a campaign to save Penrith’s second fire engine from Cumbria County Council budget cuts more than two months ago.
“Yet the power of the people this week delivered a stunning triumph as the council’s cabinet voted to spare not only Penrith’s second engine but also those at Kendal, Workington, Whitehaven and Maryport, which had also been under threat.
“Those towns undoubtedly owe the retention of their second pumps to the incredible amount of public support which sprang up in Eden, where many thousands of residents signed petitions and hundreds marched in protest through the streets of Penrith.
“It is, as Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart says, a ‘community triumph’, but also an example of how democracy is supposed to work.”
For its campaign, the paper published interviews with medical professionals and with numerous people with first hand experience of incidents attended by Penrith’s second fire engine and its crew, which was called out 177 times last year.
Reporter Craig McGlasson, who led the campaign for the paper, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the five fire engines, including Penrith’s, have been spared the axe.
“Last week’s decision represents a spectacular and seemingly against-the-odds victory for the campaign by the town’s crew of retained firefighters and the Herald.
“It demonstrates the influence of well informed public opinion and also shows the value of a local newspaper in highlighting and providing information on an important local issue.”