Planned changes to Herefordshire’s fire service will put both lives and jobs at risk, it has been claimed.

Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) plans on removing eight on-call fire engines from fire stations in the two counties with more than one fire engine, and using the £1 million saved to employ more “whole-time” rather than “retained” (on-call) firefighters.

It is running a public consultation until March 4 and says no decision will be made until June.

But Neil Bevan, Hereford and Worcester brigade secretary for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said this amounted to a fifth of the service’s engines, and could lead to the loss of 45 on-call posts.

“Attendance times of fire engines in the two counties have risen year-on-year, and the service estimates these cuts will increase them by a further 6 minutes 18 seconds to some incidents,” he said.

“Every second counts in an emergency, and we oppose any proposal that increases the risk to public or firefighter safety.”

He singled out plans for Leominster station in particular as “ill-considered and unnecessary”. Here, HWFRS plans removing the station’s second engine while employing three whole-time day firefighters.

“It is the second fire engine which needs additional support,” Mr Bevan said. “This could be solved within existing budgets through the recruitment of additional on-call staff.”

North Herefordshire MP Sir Bill Wiggin has also attacked HWFRS’s plans, but also what he said was the likely increased role of the FBU in the county.

“I am very much opposed to the proposed measures in this review, and I am concerned it will put the safety of residents at risk,” he said.

“The full-timers are represented by the FBU which is the most militant trade union in the country and will inevitably call a strike. We must support our retained firefighters and say no the FBU strike risk.”

But Mr Bevan responded that the last time his members stopped work was in 2015, and that anyway it represents both on-call and whole-time firefighters, as well as other staff.

“We oppose all attacks on our union, our profession, and the communities we serve which are suffering due to the voting record of so-called representatives such as Mr Wiggin,” he said.

HWFRS was approached for comment.