No merger for East Sussex fire service

THE FIRE and Rescue Services of East and West Sussex will not be merged though a new joint control room will be created with £3.5 million of funding.

A meeting between the East Sussex Fire Authority and West Sussex County Council decided the merger was not possible at present but still set aside the funding for a new control facility.

A joint statement announced they will not be proceeding with a full merger of the two fire and rescue services in April 2013.

However the merger remains the desired way forward if Government funding and financial issues can be resolved.

Both authorities have also made clear their plan to create a new joint control room with the desired location along the A23 corridor which could mean job losses at the East Sussex control centre in Eastbourne.

The two authorities originally announced plans to merge back in December 2010.

After an initial business case concluded the merger was the best option to protect fire services from expected Government cuts, a 12-week public consultation took place last year

In a statement the ESFA said last week’s decision not to proceed with a merger is due to new Government proposals to change the system of grant funding for all local authorities.

This could impact on how much any fire authority would receive in the future.

Hollington and Wishing Tree county councillor Phil Scott, who sits on the ESFA, said: “It is disappointing but the door is still very much left open for future discussions. Further collaboration though is possible but it would need to have real benefits for people here across East Sussex.”

ESFA chairman John Livings said: “While the authority believes a merged service would be the right thing to do, this has to be subject to having the necessary financial information available to enable the business case to be completed. This is so we can ensure any merger does not cause any unnecessary increase in cost to taxpayers and does not result in a less resilient operational and community safety service.”