LETTER: Consultation a waste of time?

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IS the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service consultation a waste of time? Not only has this consultation been inadequate and misleading, it now appears that responding to it may be a waste of time.

In a recent radio interview, deputy chief fire officer Lee Neale said: “There is a view that if we aren’t getting hundreds of thousands of responses there must be a degree of contentment or agreement with the proposals we are putting forward.”

No local consultation will ever get this number of responses. It is also quite outrageous to assume that people who have not responded all agree with the proposals. Many will not be aware of the consultation, others will have been lulled in to a false sense of security by the misleading consultation document and many will believe that their views will be ignored.

The fire service communications manager has also resorted to a generalised dismissal of a report on the consultation from retired fire officer Tony Morris (available at

wsfrscuts.blogspot.com).

Simply refuting the complaint that West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has been misleading councillors and the public defies the facts. For example:

1 The consultation document claims removing fire engines from Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington will have ‘minimal impact on performance’. Yet other fire service documents reveal this will actually increase lives lost and property damaged.

2 The consultation document says a fire engine will move from Horsham to Littlehampton. It will not. Horsham currently has three fire engines and Littlehampton two. If the proposal goes ahead, they will each have two. That is not a move, it is a cut.

3 The minutes of the south Chichester county local committee record the senior fire officer presenting the proposals said: “There were no proposals to close fire stations or reduce the number of fire engines.” Not true, the proposals will see five fire engines removed from Crawley, Horsham, Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington.

4 Much was made in the 2010 consultation about reducing risk, as it is again in this one. That consultation resulted in the closure of three fire stations and the removal of six fire engines. Despite the claims about reducing risk, the number of fire deaths trebled in just three years.

Despite new and additional demands, if these proposals go ahead, instead of additional resources there will be less.

The reduction since 2011 alone will be a 24 per cent cut in fire engines, since 1948 it is 60 per cent. It really is disappointing that they still try to spin the proposals.

Why can’t they be honest? These are significant cuts, on top of earlier significant cuts, which will cost lives and increase property damage in West Sussex.

The consultation does not meet the standards expected of a public consultation and should therefore be set aside.

Tony Morris

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Stop the Cuts