Tuesday, 30 September 2014

UKIP support putting West Sussex residents in greater danger

I have today heard from the UKIP Opposition Leader on WSCC. He says that there is nothing they can do! He says, "The assurances that satisfactory fire and emergency cover will remain in place after these changes, look sound". That sounds just as hollow as Neville Chamberlain's 'peace for our time' claim just before World War 2. 

Never mind the lack of evidence to support that 'assurance', never mind the increase in fire deaths, never mind the widespread public concern, never mind the hundreds of serving and former firefighters who are convinced that fire and emergency cover will not be satisfactory, never mind the increased response times that will put lives and property at risk, just bury your heads in the sand and keep your fingers crossed.

UKIP have shown their true colours, like the Tories, they are happy to sacrifice lives in West Sussex.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

More shocking evidence of the damage fire cuts are causing

The FBU have just published a very detailed and interesting report that sadly confirms our worst fears about fire service cuts. Notable in the report are:

How cost effective the service is nationally, at £50 per person or £100 per household. That compares with full breakdown cover for your car from the AA at £292, and full homecare cover from British Gas at £377.

So how much does West Sussex County Council think their residents’ safety is worth? Well County Council figures show it is not £50, but a derisory £35 per person to provide the fire and rescue service. Next year they only think we are worth £33 each. 

As for the cuts making no difference, research carried out for the Government has shown that fire service response times are increasing. Initially they thought this was related to traffic, but the research has shown that when traffic volumes stabilised, response times kept increasing. That increase seems to mirror the decrease in the number of firefighters and fire engines.

They also calculated that a one minute average increase in response times resulted in 78 extra deaths and £85 million more property damage each year. They also said that by 2025 there could be up to 350 extra deaths annually.

Chief Fire Officers up and down the country are warning of the dire consequences of cuts to the fire and rescue service. Why is our Chief Fire Officer not joining them and why is he continuing to deceive people by pretending the cuts are improvements?

For those who would like to read the report, it can be found here

Friday, 26 September 2014

Other people's comments on the cuts

For those who are not on Facebook, I thought you may like to see some of the comments made by other people. Many of them are or were in the service so they know how bad the cuts will be:

"One other issue I will add to your list is the apparent gagging of our serving firefighters. It appears that they have been told/warned by officers not to comment. That cannot be within the spirit of free speech or human rights, they also contribute to the tax pot, so why shouldn't they have their say?"

"They are increasing crewing at Littlehampton but failed to disclose at the meeting how much it was going to cost to upgrade the facilities. Littlehampton has plenty of retained and the wholetime personnel would be better being positioned where there is a shortage. The money being wasted by modifying Littlehampton could be used to save services elsewhere. The fire brigade employed an outside consultation company to work on the cuts and obviously they found in favour of the brigade who was the paymaster!! Why if we are trying to save money didn't they do it in house?"

"The outside consultation company, used invited audiences and asked loaded questions to lead to the audience to agreeing to the proposed cuts !! The invited audience were paid £40 each to attend the meetings!!!!!"

"I have just read some of the cabinet papers on the cuts, one of the reasons given to remove appliances from Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington is that the second appliances are often unavailable. What the CFO and DCFO have failed to inform councillors is that this is because of the lack of a robust recruitment system over the past two decades. Recruitment has been left to local firefighters without much resource. No WSFRS Management team, do not blame our frontline firefighters, YOU are to blame for appliances not being available."

"The Conservative administration's idea of democracy does not extend as far as allowing scrutiny committees to actually vote in favour or against the decision."

"Terrible outcome. The councillors are a disgrace. I thought the chairman may have not supported the cuts but that was not to be. I wonder if he would have voted differently if his house had been lost when we attended and put out a bathroom fire years ago !!!!"

"Don't you know that they don't care because they will always give a reason 'it wasn't their Service's fault', when somebody dies. It has happened after closures or changes from being 24/7, and when RDS pumps aren't available anymore." 

"Unfortunately Tony the chief fire officer doesn't care about West Sussex or its residents. It's a shame he is just a hatchet man who is going to use West Sussex as a stepping stone to new heights. If he was a West Sussex resident things would be different."

West Sussex fire service cuts must be referred to the full Council

Reckless and Foolish

The fire service cuts decision must not be left to one man. Such a crucial decision must be debated by the full County Council. The people of West Sussex deserve to know which of their representatives will vote for slower response times, more deaths and more property damage, and which of them will vote to protect the people of West Sussex.

Lionel Barnard is clearly receiving some very poor advice from his officers and it is beginning to make him look foolish, as well as reckless. Among the ridiculous statements he has been prompted to make about the fire service cuts are:

‘All 800,000 people in West Sussex knew about the consultation’. Utter nonsense. Even if the proposals had been included in the County Council’s “West Sussex Connections” newspaper, which it should have been, it would still not be true. It is becoming clear that very few people knew about it.

‘I’m sure that if people had seen any dangers they would have replied’. The consultation document deliberately omitted the dangers and falsely claimed ‘no reduction in performance’, ‘improves flexibility’ etc. It even included blatant lies, such as ‘moving a fire engine from Horsham to Littlehampton, when they were actually cutting a fire engine and crew. The dangers were deliberately concealed.

‘We had a thousand replies, which is not as many as you might expect’. Yet, he then went on to say he did not have an expectation, which makes no sense. 1,000 replies is actually a very high figure for a County Council consultation and shows how deeply concerned people are.

‘The types of incident crews respond to has changed’. They have not, West Sussex firefighters are still responding to fires, road crashes, floods and a variety of other emergencies, just as they have done since 1948. The proportion of each may have changed, but all of them still require the speedy response of one or more fully crewed fire engines.

‘This is about improving our service’. Do his advisers really think the public are that gullible? A service that will take longer to arrive at many incidents, that has fewer fire engines to attend major incidents or multiple calls, and that will see more fire deaths and property destroyed is most definitely not an improved one.

‘This is about building a fire service that is fit for the 21st century’. No it is about slowly dismantling a vital public service, making it less fit than it was in the 20th century. Resources will be the worst since before World War 2.

‘Prevention is the name of the game.’ Chief Fire Officers and Councillors have been saying that for many years. My Grandfather was saying that in the 1920s, my Uncle in the 1950s, so the only change is who is saying it. Prevention has always been part of the service’s work, but it can never replace an effective response.

‘I’ve taken the decision that I have because the evidence is there to support it’. What Lionel Barnard claims to be supporting ‘evidence’, is nothing more than wishful thinking and illusion. The most striking evidence is that fire deaths have been increasing in West Sussex, that the proposals will result in more deaths, that response times will increase, that they have been failing to crew stations properly, and that more fire engines will be under-crewed or unavailable in the future.

Finally, the figures don’t add up. Between the consultation closing and the Environmental Services Select Committee meeting the saving claimed for cutting fire engines at Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington dropped from £41,400 to just £21,000 each. The extra cost of changes at Littlehampton was £382,102, but by the meeting that had changed to ‘awaiting the costings’. Other costs resulting from the changes have not been determined, so to cut services when the real savings are unknown is reckless.

The first duty of government is to protect their citizens. County Councillors must not neglect that duty, they must refer the decision to full council.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

I have written to County Councillors today asking them to call the decision in. If you want to do the same you can check who your councillor is at this link: WSCC Councillors

My email is reproduced below:

Dear County Councillor,
I believe that it is essential that you protect the people of West Sussex by calling in Lionel Barnard’s decision on fire service cuts for the following reasons:
1. Despite his and the Chief Fire Officer's assertions, the evidence is simply not there to justify the decision. Aspirations and wishful thinking are not evidence. Examples include: 
  • “In the last five years we have reduced the levels of risk considerably across the county”. Not true, the evidence shows that the number of fire deaths in that period has increased significantly (from 1 in 2008-09 to 6 in 2012-13).
  • “The number of emergency calls we receive has reduced substantially”. Calls increase and decrease over time, but if you look at the full figures, the overall trend is that on average they are still increasing. Calls in 2012-13 were 9,504. Yet every year before 1987 they were lower and fluctuated between 3,000 and 8,000. Recent reductions from unusually high numbers have slowed and there is no evidence that they will not rise in future. 
  • “Recent reductions in calls are attributable to prevention work”. We might hope that prevention work plays a part, but there is no evidence to support this claim. Things the County Council has no control over, such as changing weather, social habits, and technology all play a much more significant part in decreases or increases in calls. Much of the recent decrease has also been artificial, as it results from a policy decision to refuse to attend certain incident types. 
  • “Getting to the root cause of emergencies, and broadening the preventative role of firefighters even further, will help us to build safer and stronger communities and improve the lives of people in West Sussex”. There is no evidence that this aspiration will be achieved. Similar claims have been made and such work has been going on over many years, yet there are still thousands of emergencies every year in West Sussex.
  • Group crewing will see “no reduction in performance”. Not only is there no evidence to support this, but common sense says that if you have fewer firefighters, then absences resulting from leave, promotions, transfers, sickness, injury, jury service, parental leave etc. will reduce the number available for duty. That can only reduce performance.
2. The evidence that response times will increase and more lives and property will be lost is clearly stated in the WSFRS supporting documents.
3. The consultation was an abject failure. Councillors, the public and the independent social research company were given reassuring and misleading claims about the effects of the proposals. Figures about an increasing number of fire deaths in recent years and an expected increase in fire deaths and property loss, as a direct result of the proposals, were not included in the consultation document or at the forums. Claims that a fire engine was to be moved from Horsham to Littlehampton were false. Claims that all the proposals had been analysed were also false. Claims that removing a fire engine from 3 stations would improve flexibility were false. This means that the consultation report is based largely on feedback from people who had not been given all the relevant facts, which makes it meaningless.

4. The proposals go against government recommendations that more fire engines should be crewed by retained firefighters. This will cut another four retained crewed fire engines, on top of the five cut in 2011. Properly managed retained stations are significantly more cost effective than wholetime crewed ones.
5. Figures quoted in the consultation document and supporting documents are different to those in the report to the Environmental Services Select Committee (e.g. the savings for proposal 3 reduced from £41,400 to £21,000 for each station, and the £200,000 cost of proposal 6 vanished completely). The committee was also given inaccurate figures in Sean Ruth’s report regarding fire deaths. It is difficult to have confidence in any of the figures quoted.
6. The most effective and least damaging option of a merger with a neighbouring service has not been properly considered.

7. The costs to implement these cuts look likely to be greater than the claimed savings. Redundancy costs and building costs at Littlehampton, which worryingly have yet to be calculated, could see any saving wiped out.
8. It is not true, as Lionel Barnard outrageously claimed on radio, that all of the 800,000 people in West Sussex knew about the consultation.
9. It is not true, as claimed by Lee Neale, that there is nothing more they could have done to make people aware. Publishing it in ‘West Sussex Connections’ would have been just one way of ensuring many more people were aware.

10. Lee Neale claims that on a daily basis, "we are constantly looking at where our risk is, we are constantly looking at the resources". Such nonsense may keep him occupied with charts and maps, but it does nothing to help those who need a fire engine quickly. The real risk is right across West Sussex, it does not change regularly, and the only mitigation is to have sufficient fire engines and crews spread sensibly across the County. Chief Fire Officers and County Councillors have done that well from 1948 to 2010. Please don't increase the damage done in 2011 with further cuts   

Monday, 22 September 2014

Heads in the sand?

This defies belief - Lionel Barnard says, "We've looked at all the proposals, we've gone over them, my deputy's gone over them with a fine tooth comb and we think that people will be just as safe as they were before." He clearly needs a new comb, because the CFO's report says, "more cost in terms of life and property damage", and "increased travel times". It is obvious that people will NOT be 'as safe as they were before'. Do they really think the public are fools?


Petworth emergencies raise fire service concerns

So the Operations Manager thinks their 'systems worked'. Well he may think leaving 10,000 people at Selsey without their fire engine, to achieve a 16 minute response time in Petworth is a system that is working. Most rational people will see that as a system that is not only failing, but is getting worse day by day. 


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

I wonder if the Environmental & Community Services Select Committee realise what is involved at the sharp end. Perhaps they should watch this excellent illustration - http://youtu.be/4lSOyYlOWew

Environmental & Community Services Select Committee

If anyone else wishes to email their concerns to the members of the  Environmental & Community Services Select Committee, their addresses are:


You are welcome to use any or all of my points in the previous post.

More misleading and inaccurate information from the Chief Fire Offcier

The Environmental & Community Services Select Committee meet on Thursday to consider a report from the Chief Fire Officer about the cuts. You will not be surprised that the report contains inaccuracies and misleading information. I have emailed the committee members to point the worst of these out (see below). The numbers below refer to the paragraphs in the CFO's report that can be found with the agenda on the WSCC website http://www2.westsussex.gov.uk/ds/cttee/ecs/ecs180914age.pdf

Dear Committee Member,
At Thursday’s meeting I believe that you will be taking, for the first time, decisions that are matters of life and death. I would therefore be most grateful if you would read these comments alongside the report by Sean Ruth (Executive Director Communities, Public Protection and Chief Fire Officer).

True or false
The reality
“There has been an increase in the average response times to
building fires in England”
The closure of fire stations and reductions in the number of fire engines across the UK have increased response times. Some deaths have been attributed to these closures and cuts. These proposals will make that situation worse.

“The severity of fires and numbers of casualties has decreased”
Partly true
Despite some decreases, the cost of fire damage has increased. The number of fire deaths in West Sussex has increased every year since 2008-09.

“National trends over the last decade” etc.
The number of incidents fluctuate annually, so just looking at the figures for two years, ten years apart, does not give you a trend.

“WSFRS has followed the national trends”
The changes in West Sussex have not been shown in this paragraph, because they are less impressive. If you take the last 30 years and look at a more reliable four year average at each end of that period, the figures are:

Total incidents attended up 45%
Special services, including road crashes, up 78%.
Fires have dropped, but only by 1%
Fire engines have already been cut by 13%.

Removing a fire engine from service at Horsham will, “improve Service performance”.
Improving response times for Littlehampton’s 1st fire engine at night will come at the cost of poorer response times both day and night in the North of the County.

Cutting the number of firefighters at immediate response stations will, “maintain existing crewing levels where possible”.

‘Where possible’ indicates that the CFO knows this proposal will see reduced crewing levels more often, so he has built in a get out clause.
Cutting the number of firefighters at immediate response stations will, result in “no reduction in response standards”.
There is no evidence to support this contention. It has not been analysed or risk assessed. Common sense says that with fewer firefighters there will be more occasions when fire engines become unavailable. The cuts will reduce the ability of stations to withstand absences resulting from leave, promotions, transfers, sickness, injury, jury service, parental leave etc.,

Removing the 2nd fire engines at Midhurst, Petworth and
Storrington, will have a “minimal impact on performance”.
Even the overly optimistic Modelling and Analysis Technical Report concedes that this proposal will result in ‘more cost in terms of life and property damage’. A full analysis using more data is likely to show that cost will be much greater.

Removing the 2nd fire engines at Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington, will “improve flexibility”.
Removing the 2nd fire engine significantly reduces flexibility. There is no improvement in flexibility offered by the 4x4s, as these stations already have them.

Removing the 3rd fire engine at Crawley will have “minimal impact on Service performance”.
Even the overly optimistic Modelling and Analysis Technical Report concedes that this proposal will result in ‘more cost in terms of life and property damage’. A full analysis using more data is likely to show that cost will be much greater.There has also been a recent increase in fire deaths and fire rescues in Crawley.

Removing the 3rd fire engine at Crawley will be “more proportionate to risk and operational demand”.
Crawley has the highest number of calls in West Sussex and more occasions when more than one call has to be dealt with at the same time. It is already under resourced and this will make the situation even worse. It will also reduce cover in other areas when their fire engines have to deal with calls in Crawley.

Remove the 2nd fire engines at Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington will save £63,000
Not sure
The documents issued with the consultation suggested that the saving for each station would be £41,400 (total £124,200). Which is correct? If the saving is only £63,000, surely there are alternatives to avoid the extra deaths and property damage.

Reductions in management and Support Services will save £290,000

Not sure
No detail has been published, so it is impossible to know if this figure is correct

Total saving = £1.6m
Proposal six is an increase in spending of £220,000, and proposal 8 will incur additional costs arising from overtime and recall to duty payments. The saving cannot therefore be £1.6m.

“Alternative Options Considered”
True, but worrying
It was quite right to rule out the other crewing options, but why was that the only alternative considered?

“There were only two specific alternative proposals submitted”

Alternative proposals were not requested. Had they been there may well have been more.

Merger - this has previously been considered by the County Council.
Previous consideration is not a reason for excluding this option. There has been time to overcome any obstacles to a merger with East Sussex, and time to consider a merger with Surrey or Hampshire. A responsible review would have looked at these options as they would be highly likely to save over £1m without affecting service provision.

A full report on the consultation feedback will be presented to the select committee meeting by ORS
Whilst ORS have done a professional job, their research has been undermined by the misleading information and omitted information provided by WSFRS. Consequently, for example, forum attendees and consultation respondents were not aware of the additional cost in terms of life and property damage associated with some of the proposals, or that claims of West Sussex becoming safer omitted the increase in fire deaths.
The samples at the forums were extremely small, so are not representative. For example, the FBU response gives the views of around 30 times the number of staff who were at the staff forum. ORS says that consultation with informed audiences is especially valuable. The 300 or so firefighters represented by the FBU are clearly well informed, so their views should be given considerable weight.
“The figures for fatalities in West Sussex for the last three years have risen from 4 in 2010/11 to 6 in 2013/14.”
There were only 3 fire deaths in 2010/11. Actual figures were:
2008-09 = 1
2009-10 = 2
2010-11 = 3
2011-12 = 4
2012-13 = 6

“The Service do not believe that it has deliberately been misleading or provided inaccurate information”.
So is ‘the service’ saying it accepts that it has been misleading and has provided inaccurate information, but did not do so deliberately? Deliberate or not, omitting information such as the predicted increase in lives lost and property damaged from both the consultation document and at the forums has denied people the full facts.

Proposals one, two, three, five, six and eight” will improve service delivery.
The limited night time improvement from proposal one at Littlehampton is offset by the reduced service delivery at Horsham both day and night. Proposal six may offer limited improvement, but that will be more than offset by the reduced service delivery from proposals one, two, three, four and five.

There will be some improvements to service delivery and improvement in the Service’s resilience through proposal eight.

There is nothing new in this proposal, so it is unclear how there will be an improvement. If there is any improvement, it will be more than offset by the reduction of 5 fire engines.
Resource Implications and Value for Money
The additional costs are vague, but it looks like far more will be spent to achieve these cuts than will actually be saved.

Equality Impact Report
The Equality Impact Report has completely failed to consider the more significant effects of proposal 3 on the rural poor, rural elderly and rural ethnic minorities, and the more significant effects of proposal 4 on the elderly, poor and ethnic minorities in Crawley Borough.

The Service has met with the Gatwick Airport Fire Service Manager, who raised no objections to the proposals.
I have no reason to doubt this, but he has no responsibility for fire cover at Gatwick. It is West Sussex County Council that is responsible, so he no doubt would not wish to interfere.

The Service believes that its proposals, when implemented, will improve emergency cover in certain rural parts of the county.

This is unbelievable spin, as there is no evidence to support the claim. 
There are also some unanswered questions that you may wish to have answered: 
  • Why were some proposals not analysed and risk assessed, especially as the consultation suggests that they all were?
  • Between 11 and 17% of attendances fail to meet the standards, so why are they not investigated and reported to County Councillors?
  • How bad are the worst examples of those attendance failures and why did they occur?
  • Why has WSFRS not followed WSCC initiatives to significantly reduce senior and middle management positions?
  • If money is short, why are officer cars being replaced with more expensive and more polluting 4x4xs?
  • Why is it suggested that the 4x4s are for flooding, when they are not designed for flooding and standard advice is for them not to enter flood water?
  • Why are there twice as many cars in WSFRS, as the proposed number of fire engines?
  • Why has WSFRS not followed WSCC policy on reducing travel by car in favour of using public transport?
  • At the restaurant fire in Petworth on 12 September why were the nearest available fire engines Arundel, Selsey, Haslemere and Horsham.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Inaccurate fire death figures

It seems that the Chief Fire Officer and I have both had trouble getting the figures right. Although fire deaths have been rising, the original figures I used were not entirely accurate and for this I apologise.

However, now the Chief Fire Officer also seems confused by the data. In his new report to the Environmental & Community Services Select Committee he states (at 5.3.1.) that in 2010/11 there were four fire deaths. Yet his Modelling & Analysis Technical Report, issued as part of the consultation, says it was three.

Having rechecked the figures in the Modelling & Analysis Technical Report, and the Response Infrastructure Technical Report, issued with the previous consultation, the correct figures are shown below. 

From this you will see that there is still a worrying rise in fire deaths.

The Chief Fire Officer is always keen to take credit for any reduction in calls and risk. For example:
  • “In the last five years we have reduced the levels of risk considerably across the county.”
  • The prevention and protection role, “has helped to significantly reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in fires in the home and reduced the demand on our services”.

You would naturally think he would also accept some responsibility when the figures go up. Not a bit of it. Regarding the increase he says, “the main causes have been primarily due to social isolation, mental health issues and individuals choice of life style”. 

So, nothing to do with cuts in fire safety or the number of fire engines then! Suggesting that it is the fault of the victims really is a new low.

Large fire in Petworth

So Petworth is one of the stations to lose a fire engine, because it is in an area "with fewer property fires and low levels of operational demand particularly for the 2nd fire engine". 

Not today it is not - 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Inadequate resources for larger incidents

I mentioned in a previous post how there are many incidents each year that require more than one or two fire engines. The consultation seems to have ignored this significant demand on resources. It is essential that sufficient resources are available to quickly attend those assistance calls, as well as dealing with other calls received whilst the larger one is being dealt with. 

To illustrate this I have plotted the location of incidents that required between 6 and 21 fire engines each between 2008 and 2012. For clarity I have had to use two maps, one for 2010-12 and one for 2008-09. You will notice that, not only can these calls occur anywhere, but there is also a significant cluster around Crawley and Gatwick. The number of fire engines available in Crawley Borough has already been reduced from 5 to 3, and the latest proposals will reduce it to just 2.

Not included on the maps are the greater number of assistance calls where 3 to 6 fire engines are required. Neither are severe weather calls included. These can produce numerous calls in a short space of time and can require the use of every available fire engine to deal with calls and protect unaffected areas. Removing a further five fire engines, in addition to the six removed in 2011, will leave only 35 to cover the whole of West Sussex. Totally inadequate.



'Safer' - really?

Quote from the West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service consultation document: "In the last five years we have reduced the levels of risk considerably across the county." This graph, using their official figures, shows a different reality.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Large incidents and spate calls

Distinctly lacking in the case for the planned cuts is any consideration of the need for reinforcements and standby cover during large incidents, or of spate calls during severe weather.

As those who are, or were, in the service will know, each year sees dozens of calls where assistance is requested. The majority are for a total of 3 to 6 fire engines, but there are others that require 10, 15, 20 and even 30. These larger incidents also require many more fire engine movements for standby in areas devoid of cover, and to relieve tired and exhausted crews.

For example, one incident that required 11 fire engines plus special vehicles to bring the incident under control, required another 12 fire engines for standby cover and 55 for relief crews over 3 days.

We are told by the experts that severe weather will increase in frequency and severity in the UK. If we look at the June flooding of 2012, between Sunday (10th) evening and Tuesday (12th) morning WSFRS received over 2,000 calls for assistance.

Delays were inevitable, but with six fewer fire engines and crews, following the 2011 cuts, they were much longer than during previous flood incidents. In fact some were never attended as, by the time crews were available, it was too late to help.

Such weather events often affect neighbouring counties, so they are often unable to help. Next time there are floods, there will be five less fire engines and crews in West Sussex, and the delays and the number of calls not answered will increase. The risk of lives being lost will also increase.

The image below shows the location of calls received during the June 2012 floods. It clearly illustrates the scale of the event and how no areas of the county escaped.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Firefighters fear disciplinary action if they speak out

I have been told that serving firefighters in West Sussex are reluctant to comment, as they fear disciplinary action. This follows attacks on free speech by Chief Fire Officers in other areas, such as Hertfordshire where a firefighter was sacked for comments on a social media forum. 

I can well understand why West Sussex firefighters are fearful of expressing their opinions and of providing further facts on the true effects of the cuts. 

Any who do wish to air their views in confidence can contact me at tonyacmorris@yahoo.co.uk, and I will put them on here and on the Facebook page (West Sussex Fire & Rescue Stop the Cuts ). 

They will appear under my name and I will not reveal their identity.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Feedback on Facebook group

To alert people to the issues, as well as this blog, I also set up a Facebook group. To my surprise it attracted 226 members in just 4 days. So I thought it might be interesting for people who are not on Facebook to see some of the comments.

Starting with disagreement from a serving senior officer, who is also a Conservative District Councillor:

Thanks for inviting me to join Tony but despite being as passionate about the Service as I know you are, my view differs from yours. In order to modernise and move forward we need make some difficult decisions that will result in less Fire engines. Never easy of course but your view that the more Fire Engines we have equals the best service is too simplistic and does not represent the best value to the residents of West Sussex. Social changes and an ever changing society mean we need to look very closely at the Service we provide and give the best value. Fire Services nationally must reflect the society we live in today and Its not all about how many Red Lorries we can put on the road. Having said this, I am glad you have this campaign going as its important we engage with as many people as possible and listen to their views. Your fb page I am sure will spark some passionate debate.
I am sure will spark some passionate debate.

Now the replies:

From Bob - Who are "we"? Bean counters I assume, rather than operational personell who do it day in, day out, and have a bit more of a clue as to what the job entails, rather than going by a spreadsheet. Glad I never had the pleasure of working with your outfit mister ! Guess youv`e been lucky enough not to be trapped in a room with a towel across the bottom of the door in an attempt to keep the smoke out, wondering where the hell the fire engine is as they used to be four minutes down the road, now they are not there any more, Go carefull!

From David - don't think your father would have thought like that Roy. That sounds like a typical reply from the Fire Service Hierachy. Certainly wasn't the view of the personnel back in the summer of 76!! The Brigade back then was stretched from one side of the County to the other.

From Tony Morris - Thanks for the response Roy, but I have not said more fire engines equals the best service. The issue is about the effects of having fewer resources (fire engines and crews) to deal with incidents across the county. It will be bad enough day to day, but hopeless during spate conditions, something that we are likely to see more frequently. The consultation document is less than honest about this. Longer response times and gaps in fire cover will be the result. That will cost lives, public and potentially firefighters, and increase property damage. The technical report admits that, so it should have been included in the consultation document. Not all the proposals have been risk assessed, so the actual effect on lives and property could be even greater. I was not a fan of a merger, but it would save a significant amount in the long term, so it is illogical not to have progressed that with East Sussex, or perhaps Surrey. The proposals are not best value. They will result in a second rate service that will cost society far more in lost lives, NHS costs, lost employment and production, insurance costs etc, than they save in Council Tax. Not to mention of course the misery and distress that goes with them. Given your position in the service and your political involvement, I did not expect support, but I felt it right to open the group to all views. In fact, had there been more accuracy and honesty in the consultation document, instead of corporate and political spin, I wonder if I would have been driven to put this much effort in to the 'campaign'.

From Dave - Roy, your corporate approach to this issue would probably work if we changed what is the UK Officers club. If you and your colleagues nationally really believe in value for money, then nationalise and get rid of 50 plus fire service management teams in the current structure. No uk business would have 50 pay groups, stores, transport team etc. These cuts are from the wrong end, it should be top down, not bottom up!!!! As Officers you really have little idea about recession and cuts. As the MD of my company and ex-retained, we have personally had to accept wage cuts, perhaps you all might consider that??

We still see major incidents on our borders where WSFRS appliances do not attend, so quickest and shortest that WSFRS adopt in inviting over the border appliances is a one way occurrence.

From David - Roy on the positive side of things I am sure that there will be plenty of officers to write up the reports when more property and lives are lost due to delayed responses. I hope it makes the councillors feel better that feel they can justify their decisions. Politically correct maybe, morally correct definetly not !!!

From Mark - Whilst I'm not surprised by you answer Roy I am disappointed as you have clearly lost touch with your roots. I left some 25 years ago and even then there were whole levels of 'management' who could no more manage than fly and in many cases were downright dangerous on the fireground. Clearly, like any other organisation today WSFR (and the rest) are top heavy and as others have said that's where cuts should start, probably with regional brigades rather than fully nationalised. For years we've had East and West Sussex when the Police force who are far larger work well as just Sussex. The public don't care about politics they just want to see a red lorry turn up quickly when they call for help that is what they pay for after all. All the men in braid mean nothing to them!

From Barry - I am not sure if these cuts are being brought in and heaven forbid they are, where are the appliances going to come from to deal with a very large incident ? It would involve so many movements of other appliances that other areas would be left even lighter on fire cover. Officer attendance does not put out fires !!!

From Adey - Whilst there are many ways of working "smarter" or more efficiently reducing your ground troops whilst still having the same number of back office and management functions in place is not one of them. Those filing paper, typing letters and crunching numbers cannot perform the basic core function of your "business" I.e. fighting fires and performing rescue functionality. So sadly you seem to be missing the point by saying that cutting front line services is cost effective. Without these your front line staff those valuable targets set by the Govt bean counters will be missed. That is where the Ambulance Service has failed and are consequently being fined for failing to meet targets. Paying fines means less money in the budget to improve failings, so cuts at the sharp end are a false economy. Can you come back to this group and convince me that the proposals set out by the CFO can be truly and honestly justified?

From Mark - Sorry Roy but I've just re-read your response and quite frankly it's not only condescending but totally biased and without any moral, logical or meaningful foundation whatsoever. Having looked at the page I now realise how many appliances have been cut for a relatively small saving in money. Being totally honest, if you remember after the 1976 strike I had little time for the retained but in reality they are the only feasible cover available in outlying areas and to cut them is sheer folly. This is particularly true in East Preston given the 100s of homes being built in Angmering etc. I'm afraid that regardless of whether you are wearing your political or management hat, your comments supporting the proposals are either totally naive or totally cynical and dismissing talk of keeping pumps as 'simplistic' is actually insulting.