County fire chief faced public in heated meeting about proposed cuts

THE County fire chief faced the public in a heated meeting about proposed cuts to the fire service last Saturday (April 5).

Des Prichard, East Sussex’s chief fire officer, attended the meeting, which was held at the White Rock Hotel, to answer questions about the proposed cuts which could impact frontline fire services and firefighter jobs at The Ridge and Battle fire stations.

Joining Mr Prichard on the panel were Sarah Owen, Labour’s parlimentary candidate, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) officials and councillors.

Only three of the 18 invited East Sussex Fire Authority members attended - Labour’s Phil Scott and Michael Wincott and independent councillor Stuart Earl - and MP Amber Rudd was also absent from the meeting.

Ms Owen said: “Similar sized brigades across the country have fewer chiefs and senior management. Losing frontline firefighters should be the absolute last resort and I do not believe enough has been done to make cuts from the top of the command structure. These are the same management teams and Conservative controlled Fire Authority who have failed to make a successful merger with West Sussex, Surrey or Kent and it is not acceptable that people across East Sussex are paying the price for these failures both through their taxes and now with their safety.”

The meeting was chaired by Phil Bailey who was part of the team who organised the successful Save The Ridge Fire Station campaign last year, The Hastings and the Battle meeting, which was held on April 7 at Battle Memorial Hall, were both well-attended.

Phil Scott, East Sussex Fire Authority member and Labour group leader on the combined fire authority councillor, said: “After attending two very highly charged public meetings both in Hastings and Battle, it is clear that the overwhelming feeling by the public that attended is that there should be no downgrading of front line firefighter cover in East Sussex, certainly in Battle I think by the end of the discussion it was made much more clear to them that any cuts to service in Hastings would impact heavily on both Hastings and Battle.”

The 10-week consultation period ends on April 28 and the consultation can be completed at