THE decision by West Sussex County Council to ratify the proposed cuts to West Sussex Fire and Rescue service must be one of the most ill-informed and ill-judged decisions made in recent years.
In a radio interview, Lionel Barnard stated there had only been 1,000 objections out of a county of 800,000 people, so the residents must be happy with the proposals.
What he didn’t say was that a number of objectors were fire professionals with decades of experience, he also failed to mention that some objectors were local parish and town councils who represent 1,000s of residents.
Meetings were held across the county so that the local public could either attend as I did, or be represented by their elected local councillors, this, it seems has been paid lip service by our county councillors.
The decision to remove appliances at Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington will put people at risk.
It will place the public at higher risk because there is an increased likelihood that fire appliances will have to travel greater distances.
Based on the law of averages, fire appliances will now be travelling greater distances under blue-light emergency driving conditions. This will place firefighters, and specifically fire drivers at a greater risk, every mile driven using blue lights places our firefighters at risk. Is it right or fair that we place our firefighters at greater risk even before they arrive at the emergency?
There are further efficiency savings to be made without affecting our frontline services. We have seen a reluctance nationally, it seems, to start joining with other fire services.
There has not been a West Sussex police force for decades, it is Sussex police, so why not Sussex Fire Service? What other organisation would nationally have 50 headquarters with 50 CEOs, 50 pay departments and 50 personnel departments?
That is what the British fire service has. There are economies of scale that can be made without affecting our frontline services.
The county fire management team has stated these cuts are not just about saving money, but re-structuring based on risk. I think they have just increased the risk.