Decision on West Sussex Fire and Rescue cuts

A PLAN to cut spending on the West Sussex Fire And Rescue Service by £2.5m have been approved by Cllr Christine Field, the county cabinet member for public protection, following 10 weeks of public consultation.

No fire stations will be closed under the plans, and all 40 of the service’s frontline fire engines will remain, but there will be reductions in staffing.

A county council spokesman said there would be no increase in agreed attendance times.

“Community safety work including free home fire safety checks will continue, as will the wider role the fire service has with young people to educate about fire safety and reduce anti-social behaviour,” he said.

The service has to save £2.5m in 2013 as part of the wider £79m to be saved by the county council.

“The proposals, many of which came from staff suggestions, include changes to crewing for specialist vehicles and reductions in middle managers,” said the spokesman.

The service currently has 379 wholetime and 285 retained firefighters responding to emergencies from its 25 fire stations.

A restructure would see the wholetime number reduced to 348 and 12 fewer non-operational support roles.

There would be no reduction in the number of retained firefighters.

Most of the wholetime roles would be saved by reverting to the alternate crewing system for an aerial ladder platform at Worthing and a heavy rescue tender at Crawley, and by moving crews from Horley to merge with colleagues at Horsham Fire Station.

Consultation with staff and unions was ongoing but the service believed the savings can be found without the need for compulsory redundancies.

Cllr Field said the majority of people responding in the consultation had supported the proposals and that she was satisfied essential services would be maintained.

“I think people understood these were sensible proposals given the tough economic pressures on public services,” she said.

“The reductions in grant funding means budget cuts are inevitable, and while it’s never easy to reduce staff, the evidence put forward by the service has demonstrated quite clearly that essential services would continue and that risks to firefighters and the public would not increase.

“The service’s annual report published last month showed a decline in the number of injuries from accidental dwelling fires and it’s important that this downward trend continues.

“With these proposals I think the public can be reassured that despite the pressure on budgets, our firefighters can still deliver an excellent service carrying out their community safety role and responding to emergencies when they are really needed.”

Cllr Field’s decision will come into effect from October 19 at the end of the county council’s call-in period.