Councillor’s campaign for closure is condemned

Cllr Rob Cooke
Cllr Rob Cooke

FURIOUS firefighters have slammed a campaign by a Hastings councillor urging residents to support a proposal which would see the downgrading of Battle Fire Station.

Last week the Hastings and Rye Conservative Group launched a campaign urging Hastings residents to write to the East Sussex Fire Authority in support of plan 2B - which would see Battle Fire Station downgraded to retained status and nine full time posts lost.

Hastings borough councillor Robert Cooke, who is behind the campaign, argues that picking option 2B would save The Ridge Fire Station in the town from service reductions as East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service looks to cut jobs and save £7.1 million.

But the campaign has sparked a furious response from firefighters and residents of both Battle and Hastings, who have branded it ‘twisted and short-sighted’.

Hastings firefighter Mark Brown, who is based at Bohemia Fire Station, expressed his disbelief on the campaign’s official Facebook page.

He said: “I’ve been a firefighter in Hastings for nigh on 25 year and I never thought that I’d see the day when the public were asked to vote on which town shall we let burn longer than any other!

“The idea that voting for 2B will secure better attendance times in Hastings is completely misguided. Where do think the back up comes from when required? Battle.”

Battle-based firefighter Leo Cacciatore added: “How can you do this? All public service cuts are wrong! You cannot justify the loss of any appliance or jobs! You are talking about public safety.”

Battle firefighters are often called upon to provide vital back-up for crews in Hastings.

Keith Robertson wrote: “To consider having to choose between the two is ridiculous, and I would implore the page authors to either remove or amend this page and the associated petition, and ensure you have a better grasp of the gravity of what you are asking people to sign before reposting.”

But Cllr Cooke maintains 2B is the best for Hastings.

He said: “It is of course unfortunate that the fire authority finds itself in the situation of having to find £7.1 million of savings in East Sussex. However as those efficiency savings do have to be found it is my job as a local councillor to support the option that will be best for the residents I represent. It is only last year that all political parties in Hastings came together to save The Ridge Fire Station and nothing has changed to make me believe that protecting that station as best we can is the best possible outcome for Hastings residents.

“So far I have heard nothing from other parties or organisations that would present a realistic option to make those savings and to protect as best we can the coverage in Hastings.

“Therefore I urge all residents in Hastings to support our campaign to get the Fire Authority to ‘Pick Option 2B.”