Labour county councillors are challenging proposals by West Sussex County Council to cut back the number of firefighters and fire engines available.
The councillors are also criticising the rushed nature of the public consultation, with the council refusing to extend it beyond 23rd August, despite many people being away during the summer holidays.
Labour county councillors have become increasingly concerned about the proposals coming from West Sussex County Council to cut Fire and Rescue Services in West Sussex, and in particular the impact this is going to have on Crawley and towns in the north of the county.
The meeting will invite fire fighters, representatives of their unions and the public to hear of the concerns over the proposals, where the council may be cutting too much and to share their views over what should stay.
The county council has launched a consultation to cut £1.6 million from the county’s budget for the Fire and Rescue service;
If the cuts go through as proposed, Crawley will lose seven full-time firefighters, all ten retained firefighters and one of the station’s three fire engines;
There are cuts at all the other fire stations as well in the county putting further strain on the service. The stations in Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill will see their capacity for fire prevention work slashed, as resources are stretched even further;
This is on top of £2.5 million of cuts to West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service already made by the Tory leadership, announced in 2012, and
Labour councillors have also criticised the timing the consultation which is right in the middle of the summer holidays, despite this being a time when many people are away.
Despite this, Labour county councillors have pledged their determination to have a public meeting where West Sussex residents can have their say before the consultation period is over.
The meeting will be held at 7pm on Thursday 21st August 2014 at the Civic Hall, Crawley Town Hall, The Boulevard RH10 1UZ
As well as members of the public and the press being invited to attend, representatives of local firefighters will be attending to give their views on the potential impact of these proposed cuts on the resilience of West Sussex Fire and Rescue Services.
Labour County Councillor Michael Jones (Southgate and Crawley Central), one of the organisers of the meeting, said: “The cuts proposed are just a figure the Tory leadership have set, not necessarily what is safe or more efficient. If it were being done reasonably, you would have asked the service to come up with proposals, not just tell them to cut away until they hit the desired amount.
“My bottom line is there must be no threat to public safety. To my mind, the proposals risk cutting beyond acceptable safety margins. In particular, the north of the county looks like it may be worryingly exposed, with only all night cover guaranteed from Crawley and Horsham stations.
“There have been a number of big fires in Crawley recently. We need a service that can always provide us that full capacity. Crawley is growing, as are other West Sussex towns. We see all the recent development agreed and we know that will need the same, not less, cover.
“The timing of the consultation has been poor. The West Sussex Fire Service has never been a large one and the proposals look to reduce it even further. The council is constantly cutting and appear to have given little thought to how hard this could hit those of us that live here.
“The council have indicated they potentially want a further £2.4 million out of next year’s Fire and rescue budget. The time has come for us to stand up and be heard.”