Public consulted over fire service changes

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A public consultation has started on a £2.5m cost-saving plan by West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.

The council says proposals include reductions in support staff and managers and changes to some response arrangements but there are no plans to close any fire stations.

The savings are part of West Sussex County Council’s plans to reduce its costs by £79m.

The Fire & Rescue Service had proposed to make the savings through a merger with East Sussex, but those plans had to be dropped due to uncertainties over funding.

The two services will however merge their control rooms in a move that will save an estimated £950k per year, and the new Sussex Control Centre is due to go live in September 2013.

Deputy County Fire Officer Sean Ruth says the budget plan would mean changes for staff but the aim of the proposals had to be on maintaining essential services to the public.

“To make the level of savings required it will inevitably mean a reduction in posts, but I believe the areas we have identified for change mean we will still be able to deliver the right balance of community safety and emergency response services to people in West Sussex.

“It is also important our performance standards match risks in the county, so when you dial 999 in West Sussex a fire engine will still arrive within our agreed attendance times as it does now.

“Our plan is not just about cost-cutting. We want to reinvest resources in areas where it will improve our overall performance, and we will also seek ways to attract new sources of income. Sponsorship, for example, could be used to support safety campaigns and initiatives.”

The cost-saving plans include

A reduction in senior and middle managers

Reviewing the number of on-call officers

Changing the crewing of specialist vehicles at Crawley and Worthing

Changing the response arrangements in the Horley and Crawley area

Reductions in support roles and HQ based functions

Streamlining the process for fire safety enforcement

Reducing the number of Service vehicles

Exploring opportunities for income generation

Christine Field, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection, will decide on the proposals following the public consultation.

She said: “This is a difficult financial time for public services so it is even more important that we focus on delivering essential services to the community.

“The Fire & Rescue Service is proposing changes to its ways of working in order to maintain and even improve its services, but at this stage we should stress they are just proposals. The views of the public are particularly important during a consultation so I would urge as many people as possible to take part before a decision is taken.”

The consultation will run for 10 weeks from July 12 to September 21.

The consultation document, and all the supporting information plus an online questionnaire can be viewed on the county council website www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire. Printed versions are available on request from Fire Service HQ on 01243 753706, and copies will be available in all libraries, district and borough council offices.

In addition to the online questionnaire you can submit your views:

Via email: fire.redesign@westsussex.gov.uk

By telephone: Fire Redesign Team 01243 753706

In writing: Ian Coleman, Fire Redesign Team, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service HQ, Northgate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1BD