West Sussex Fire service plans big spending cuts

A saving of £1.3m a year by 2011-12 is being planned by the West Sussex fire and rescue service – with a major redesign on the cards across the whole county.

This was revealed at a meeting of the county council's community

services select committee, as more details begin to emerge of changes in services being proposed in response to the county council's plans to reduce its annual budget by a grand total of 50m by March, 2011. All areas except schools are affected.

There were warnings of a 'bleak' outlook, with the prospect nationally of sweeping cutbacks in public spending.

Cllr Steve Waight called for more information about the fire service savings.

"I am not aware precisely where these will come from," he added.

Changing model

Deputy county fire officer, Cliff Sear, said fire cover in West Sussex was based on a fairly historic model dating back to just after World War II.

"We have been doing detailed work on how we can redesign fire cover," he told the select committee.

"There is a potential opportunity to design a model that uses fewer resources, and increases the level of cover."

This detailed piece of work was on-going at the moment, and would take some time to complete.

"We are redesigning fire cover in a fairly fundamental way across the county," he added.

Investment needed

Answering further questions, Mr Sear said some capital investment was likely to be necessary in order to achieve this level of saving.

This was because some locations might need improvements in facilities for the service to deploy staff there in a different way to what was being done at the moment.

County councillors heard proposals for achieving savings varied in

percentage terms across various services.

Chris Salt, group manager for customers and communities, said the fire service saving at 1.3m was roughly four per cent of its 32m budget.

Making savings

In libraries and trading standards, the percentage would be more like 11 per cent.

"This is because there are different opportunities in different service areas, he added.

Cllr Louise Goldsmith, county cabinet member for finance and resources, said: "We are all aware that we have substantial savings to make.

"All portfolios are looking at this, at what is essential and not so

essential, and at whether we are getting true value from it."

Some savings could be carried out straight away, and not held back. But the major, fundamental ones would be coming back to the select committees for consideration.

Dramatic changes

"Some of the more dramatic ones we have we are bringing back to you," she told members.

A report presented at the meeting showed savings proposed by 2011-2012 for services the select committee is responsible for scrutinising.

These included 150,000 for the arts; 169,000 for community safety;

1m for a libraries 'reconfigure'; 200,000 for trading standards; 160,000 for the registration service; 50,000 for archives; and 115,000 for the coroner's service.

Other committees are examining figures for the service areas they are responsible for.

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