Running from danger is a natural part of our survival instinct. Yet, for those dangers to be overcome, some men and women must run into the flames. Literally. The men and women of our Fire and Rescue Service are the reason we know when the worst comes to pass and we find ourselves and our property engulfed in flame, or we or a loved one is involved in a car accident, we know help is on the way.
Several years ago, West Sussex County Council cut Crawley's third fire engine and all its retained fire fighters as part of reductions to the service across the county. Labour country councillors warned that even with increasing fire prevention, cuts would increase response times and put lives at risk. Despite what local Conservatives said at the time, that's exactly what happened. However much you try to limit the need for the fire engines, they remain a vital part of our emergency services and seconds can be the matter between life and death.
So, it's with alarm that I notice the county council are consulting on a new 'West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service Integrated Risk Management Plan', plotting out how the service will change over coming years. While no one at the council would be foolish enough to spell out exactly what this means in terms of numbers of fire engines and firefighters, reading between the lines further cuts seem inevitable and the submission made by the county's front-line firefighters through their union the FBU raises real cause for concern.
We as citizens are faced with a choice: we can sit quietly by and allow the Conservatives to keep rolling the dice with our safety or we can stand alongside the men and women who so regularly put their own lives on the line for ours. We can save our fire service, but no one else will do it for us, if you want it you need to act to save it. A consultation is currently taking place on the draft plan, make sure to make your voice heard by going to: https://haveyoursay.westsussex.gov.uk/risk/west-sussex-fire-rescue-service-risk-management-pl/
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council