Ten week consultation period over future of fire cover gets under way

A 10 WEEK consultation period is under way which will decide whether any changes are made to the number of firefighters at stations covering the borough.

Last Friday the East Sussex Fire Authority agreed for a public consultation to take place until April 28.

East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is looking to shed between 50 and 80 jobs across the county from its current operational staff as part of a bid to save £7 million.

Proposals include a new system of working for firefighters at The Ridge and Bohemia stations which could see them sleeping overnight on site.

The Day Crewed Plus plan could reduce staff but “not affect attendance times” according to the service.

Chief fire officer Des Prichard pledged to the Observer that any losses would not affect the services remit to get “eight firefighters to 60 per cent of calls within eight minutes.”

The Fire Authority now wants the publics views on a series of proposals which could change the way the service meets the needs of the community in the face of funding cuts.

The full public consultation can be found at www.esfrs.org/changingtheservice/

The findings of the consultation will be considered at a Fire Authority meeting in June 2014.

Fire Authority chairman Phil Howson said: “The usual reaction when considering emergency services is to be against change but there are very good reasons for us looking at how we work.

“The community needs have changed. We have significantly fewer call outs now than in previous years. This is in part due to the success of our work in preventing fires and other emergencies.

“We are also facing cuts in our budgets. Last July we put this at a figure of £7.1 million over the next five years. These two factors together make it the right time to look at how we deliver services in East Sussex to make sure that the right options are pursued.”

Councillor Phil Scott, Labour group leader on the Fire Authority, said: “Labour councillors on the authority are fundamentally opposed to a consultation process that looks to cut 80 front line fire fighter posts and resources in Hastings and Battle. The consultation process will be not be a meaningful one as it is more about telling residents what the plans are rather than asking them their opinions.”