Date Added- 10th October 2012
FIRE SERVICE BUDGET PLANS BACKED BY COUNTY COUNCIL CABINET MEMBER
Plans by West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service to save £2.5m have been backed by Christine Field, the West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection, following a 10-week public consultation.
No fire stations will be closed under the plans.
Crucially, all 40 of the Service's frontline fire engines remain and there will be no increase in agreed attendance times. Community safety work including free home fire safety checks will continue, as will the wider role the fire service has with young people to educate about fire safety and reduce anti-social behaviour.
The Fire & Rescue Service has to save £2.5m in 2013 as part of the wider £79m that has to be saved by the County Council. The proposals, many of which came from staff suggestions, include changes to crewing for specialist vehicles and reductions in middle managers.
The Service currently has 379 wholetime and 285 retained firefighters that respond to emergencies from its 25 fire stations. A restructure would see the wholetime number reduced to 348 and 12 fewer non-operational support roles. There would be no reduction in the number of retained firefighters.
Most of the wholetime roles will be saved by reverting to the alternate crewing system for an Aerial Ladder Platform at Worthing and a Heavy Rescue Tender at Crawley, and by moving crews from Horley to merge with colleagues at Horsham Fire Station.
Consultation with staff and unions is ongoing but the Service believes the savings can be found without the need for compulsory redundancies.
Christine said the majority of people responding in the consultation had supported the proposals and that she was satisfied essential services would be maintained.
"I think people understood these were sensible proposals given the tough economic pressures on public services. The reductions in grant funding means budget cuts are inevitable, and whilst it's never easy to reduce staff, the evidence put forward by the Fire & Rescue Service has demonstrated quite clearly that essential services would continue and that risks to firefighters and the public would not increase.
"The Service's annual report published last month showed a decline in the number of injuries from accidental dwelling fires and it's important that this downward trend continues. With these proposals I think the public can be reassured that despite the pressure on budgets, our firefighters can still deliver an excellent service carrying out their community safety role and responding to emergencies when they are really needed."
The decision will come into effect from October 19th at the end of the County Council's call-in period.
1. West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service has 3 Heavy Rescue Tenders and 2 Aerial Ladder Platforms. There are no plans to reduce them in number through these proposals and each vehicle will be available 24 hrs, 365 days per year.
2. The Heavy Rescue Tenders at Worthing and Chichester are already crewed by the alternate crewing system, as is the Aerial Ladder Platform at Horsham.
3. There are no agreed attendance times for these specialist vehicles – either locally or nationally – and the alternate crewing model operates successfully at 14 other fire stations in West Sussex that have specialist vehicles.
4. Horley Fire Station is located just within the West Sussex county border although the majority of the 500 calls it received in 2011-12 were into Surrey.
5. Surrey County Council has statutory responsibility for providing fire and rescue services within their county border, which includes Horley town centre. Gatwick Airport has its own Fire & Rescue Service for emergencies at the airport.
6. Under these proposals the fire engine at Horley will be relocated to Horsham to improve our response in the north and central areas of West Sussex. The West Sussex FRS Technical Rescue Unit, whose team members respond to incidents in the UK or overseas, for example the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan, will still be based at Horley Fire Station.
7. Discussions are ongoing with Surrey Fire & Rescue Service to ensure an appropriate risk-based service is maintained to people in Horley. West Sussex FRS will continue to support Surrey FRS in meeting their statutory responsibilities.
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