On 23rd August West Sussex County Council closed the public consultation entitled ‘A Fire Service for the Future’. Apparently, the response to this consultation will be a taken into account when shaping the final plan for the county’s Fire Service.
The plan will be presented to the council for approval in September. Experience shows that a low priority is usually given by the Tories running our county and district councils, to the views of the public when shaping future plans for services.
Horsham Labour Party would, therefore, like to highlight, for the benefit of local residents who will be affected by the changes and for Horsham county councillors who will be taking a decision on the future of the service, some of the concerns that were expressed at a recent public meeting on the subject of the cuts.
At the meeting Labour county councillors and representatives of local fire fighters raised concerns at the proposal to cut £1.6 million from the county’s budget for the Fire and Rescue Service. They said that the proposed cuts will have a severe effect on communities in the North of West Sussex, particularly in view of the massive increase in development in the area.
With more people, more buildings and more traffic, the risks that the service is there to tackle are likely to increase, not reduce. It makes little sense, therefore, to reduce the resources available to tackle life threatening incidents such as fires and road traffic accidents.
If the proposals go through, Horsham will lose one of its two immediate response fire engines. This will leave Horsham with only one 24 hour, immediate response vehicle and one fire engine crewed by retained firefighters. A new crewing system will require three fewer fire fighters at the station.
Firefighters’ representatives are concerned that this reduction in the numbers making up a crew will have serious impact on the crew’s ability to tackle fires safely and swiftly.
In addition to cuts in Horsham, Crawley Fire Station will also lose a fire engine and will lose ten retained fire fighter posts.
Those attending the public meeting were extremely concerned about the loss of Fire and Rescue Resource.
Under these proposals the most densely populated area of the county will experience the greatest reduction in this vitally important service area.
It is unlikely that anyone living in the Horsham District or Crawley Borough is likely to agree with the county council’s view that these proposals will ‘build safer and stronger communities, improve the lives of people in West Sussex and improve public safety’, as suggested in the consultation documents.
For that reason Labour’s county councillors will be opposing these proposals. We would encourage readers of the County Times to contact their county councillors and encourage them to do likewise.
Chair, Horsham Labour Party, Clarence Road, Horsham