SHROPSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service has been praised by its governing body over its handling of the Covid-19 crisis – with one Conservative councillor saying the service should sell its strategy to Boris Johnson.

Members of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority said all staff should be congratulated for the way in which the brigade minimised the spread of the virus, protecting staff and the communities it serves, while still carrying out its essential work.

Simon Hardiman, assistant chief fire officer, told members of the authority that coronavirus-related staff absence had shrunk to just 0.7 per cent by this Wednesday, from a peak of 7.2 per cent in the week after the nationwide lockdown was imposed.

Mr Hardiman said this amounted to four members of staff who were self isolating but not displaying symptoms. The total staff absence on Wednesday was 3.3 per cent, which Mr Hardiman said was lower than the normal level – suggesting measures to minimise the spread of the virus was also protecting staff from other illnesses.

The service had prepared for a worst-case scenario of up to 20 per cent of its workforce being off sick at the same time, using its pandemic flu planning assumptions.

A report to the authority said measures taken to limit the spread of the virus included the suspension of multi-station exercises and on-call drill sessions, increased cleaning, and limiting the number of riders at on-call stations.

Non-essential training was also postponed along with all but the most high risk safe and well visits.

The report also highlighted the service’s contribution to local efforts to combat the spread of the virus and support residents – from testing masks for Hope House hospice and delivering PPE across the county to providing mental health first aiders to support partner agencies.

Councillor Peter Adams, who represents Bowbrook on Shropshire Council said: “Given the figures you’ve just given us, I want to say congratulations and thank you for a sensational set of figures. Not good, not very good, but tremendous.

“I think we need to thank everyone in the fire and rescue authority from Rod (Hammerton – chief fire officer) right down to the very lowest level. To get those figures everyone must have put their two penneth in, and I think it’s time that these people got the recognition.

“If these were normal times I would be proposing that we should have a party.

“On Saturday I’m seeing our MP and I will present your figures to him and say ‘this is what Shropshire does, why can’t the others do it?’

“I will be telling him I want him to take this to two people – Boris and the chancellor. For one, it shows what can be done, and secondly, if your figures are right, it will show the chancellor how he can reduce costs around the country and I can’t see that they will say no to this.

“As a Conservative, I would say what you need to do is produce a short report on how you did it and I will try and get Boris to buy it from you. I think it is that good.

“I want to thank everyone within the fire authority for what they’ve done in the last three months.”

Fire Authority chairman, Telford & Wrekin Councillor Eric Carter, added: “This proves again that we know what we’re doing, we do it properly and we safeguard our firefighters and the general public.

“It’s something we should all be very, very proud of. Please, Simon, thank everyone on our behalf.”