The meeting was well-attended and the message was clear from those fire fighters that attended that the cuts would be harmful right across the county. This is what Cllr Michael Jones (Southgate and Crawley Central) said on Crawley Labour county councillors’ behalf at the start of the meeting last night in Crawley to oppose the cuts to West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
"It's good to see so many people here tonight, because the situation facing the Fire service in West Sussex is serious.
The county council leadership at West Sussex have decided they want 1.6 million pounds of cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service.
This after 2 and a half million of cuts made to it only a year ago.
The County Council's proposals have been set out on many occasions, including twice in Crawley.
Yet as opposition councillors we were concerned and we didn't feel they gave a full airing to the concerns of those who work in the Fire and Rescue Service, and the public.
Before this even went out to consultation this year, I told the Conservative Leadership at County Hall I feared this was a cut too far.
We felt they had worked out a figure and told their staff to find it no matter what, not what was more efficient, or reasonable. We asked them to extend the consultation so that it wasn't entirely in the summer holiday period. Our requests were refused.
The North of the county will be particularly badly hit if everything proposed in the consultation goes ahead, and Crawley especially.
- Some worrying things sent to me recently by the County council's former Operational Planning Officer who retired earlier this year:
That following the closure of three fire stations and the loss of six fire engines in 2011, fire deaths in West Sussex have trebled.
· That the majority of recent fire deaths and rescues from fires have been in Crawley fire station’s area.
· That the number of calls in the area now covered by West Sussex are 3 times greater than they were in 1948-49, but there are fewer fire stations and fire engines to deal with those calls. With these proposals the total loss will be 6 fire stations and 22 fire engines.
· The current proposals will see West Sussex with one of the worst resourced services in the UK. Cornwall, for example, will still have 1 fire engine for every 12,500 people, whilst West Sussex taxpayers will only have 1 fire engine for every 23,000 people in the county.
- With these worrying issues in mind, tonight we the councillors are going to step to one side and listen to the people who actually work in the Service on the front line, tell us what they think.
- It's going to be your night to have your say, as residents too.
- After the meeting, you will either have found a consultation booklet, or a copy of the questionnaire on your chair.
- We'd like you to fill it in, some of it based on what you hear tonight.
- As the consultation is about to finish on Saturday, we'd like you to fill it in and give it back to us straight away.
We'll put it in one big envelope and send it straight back to County Hall.
We need a voice, we are going to hear it tonight I am sure, let's make sure Crawley and the towns in the north of the county get the hearing that we truly deserve.
I'm looking forward to a good debate tonight.
I will listen to tonight's contributions with an open mind, but always with West Sussex residents' best interests in mind. Here's to a constructive discussion.
Cllr Michael Jones
Labour, Southgate and Crawley Central