Consultation on fire cuts was ‘deeply flawed’

A CONSULTATION on plans to make cuts to the fire service in East Sussex have been branded ‘deeply flawed’.

Last week the Fire Authority voted to remove the retained appliance from The Ridge and introduce a new ‘Day Crewed Plus’ duty system at the fire station, which will lead to job losses.

But Hastings borough councillor Phil Scott, who represents Hastings on the Fire Authority, has said East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS)should look elsewhere to make the required £7.1 million in savings.

He said: “I, along with my colleagues, attended all three public meetings in the Hastings, Battle and Brighton areas.

“The tone of all three meetings was that the consultation process was deeply flawed and that senior officers should look elsewhere for efficiency savings or cuts to the front line of the service.

“For me and many others the consultation process has been about a plan that tells people what the cuts to the service will be, where the cuts will be and when it will be happening.”

Cllr Scott expressed concerns about how the cuts would affect Hastings residents.

He said: “Hastings had its concerns about cuts in fire cover to The Ridge and how that will impact on a town that is one of the most deprived in the country.

“How that would impact on the many vulnerable individuals and groups that have been identified as high risk of fire risk, many living just metres from The Ridge Fire Station on the Broomgrove estate where my colleague Cllr Michael Wincott is the local member.

“How that would impact on the rural areas to the north east flank of the area in Pett Fairlight and Guestling.

“We had the same argument with the Hastings review not long ago and won that argument at that time.

“And on top of that, Hastings residents are concerned about the impact of the many homes of multiple occupancy (HMO) in central St Leonards, where many vulnerable residents live and then, of course, the Old Town of Hastings where we have just witnessed the worst fire for 30 years - at ESFRS’s own admission - and where a woman nearly lost her life and where many buildings were destroyed by fire.

“In the last two years or so we had a major fire at Marlborough House, a residential HMO with many older people who had to be led to safety. This was a disaster for those that were displaced out of their homes as a result of that serious fire.”

Cllr Scott went on to say: “We have seen a consultation process come forward that is fundamentally flawed and a sham for all intents and purposes and is not acceptable to the people of East Sussex.”

He called on ESFRS’s senior officers to go ‘back to the drawing board’ and look at alternative measures, including sharing services, considering an ‘extensive use’ of reserves, and further lobbying of fire minister Brandon Lewis.