Monday, 13 October 2014


On Friday, County Councillors will be debating cuts that are based on misleading information.

No additional deaths were mentioned in the consultation document. Even the technical report, only admitted to ‘3 extra dwelling fire fatalities in 100 years’, but other deaths are hidden in the statistics. The Cost Benefit analysis reveals that the total number of additional deaths will be 55. The figures below are taken from that document. The calculations were omitted from the document, so they have been added.

Fire appliance Deployment Strategy
Other Building Fatalities
Special Service Fatalities
(eg road crashes)
Base Case
Total FFR Proposal
Increase for one year
Increase for 100 years

That is a grand total of 55 extra deaths. The cuts at Midhurst and Petworth will only save about £21,000 each, but these alone will account for 22 of those deaths.

The final count may well be more, as extra deaths resulting from the reductions in wholetime crewing have not been calculated, and the fatality figures used in this and the previous technical document were, with one exception, inaccurate.

Instead of cutting the service, the County Council should be investigating why, when fire deaths are falling in England, they are rising in West Sussex. Between 2008-09 and 2012-13 there was an 11% drop in fire deaths in England (323 down to 289), but a 600% increase in West Sussex (1 up to 7).

The Chief Fire Officer’s claims that the number of incidents is falling in line with national trends is also misleading. There has been a 27% drop across England (717,805 to 521,222) in the same period, but West Sussex has only seen a 14% drop (11,047 to 9,504). The reduction for fires is also poor, down 38% for England (249,237 to 154,433), but only 20% for West Sussex (2,675 to 2,148).

No one who has seen through the false claims in the consultation document has supported the proposals. Not mentioned in that document, or at the forums, were the real effects - more loss of life, more property damage, longer response times, poorer performance, loss of flexibility, less effective crewing, and failing to match risk and performance. The consultation was a disgraceful sham.

Much has been claimed about moving from ‘just response’ to ‘more prevention’. These hollow claims are without substance and are made every time there are cuts. In 2003 the then Chief Fire Officer said they would be “changing the service emphasis from one of intervention to one of protection and prevention”. Yet deaths are now increasing and West Sussex is lagging well behind the rest of England.

Another illusion is that ‘emergency response services must reflect changing demands’. NOT TRUE, the number of calls fluctuate for a variety of reasons from year to year. Looking at change over 30 years, fires are about the same (down just 1%), but total incidents have increased by 45%, and non-fire emergencies have increased by 78%. Despite these increases, the proposals will see fire engines cut by a total of 24%. Those with more experience know that there is no changing demand that justifies fewer resources. It does not matter if it is a fire, road crash, chemical leak or flooding, they all require one or more fully equipped and fully crewed fire engines as quickly as possible.

Another false claim is that the Crawley cuts will mean “resources more proportionate to risk and performance”. NOT TRUE, Crawley is not being properly protected. 15% of all West Sussex incidents are in Crawley’s area, yet they will only have 6% of the county’s fire engines (cut from 11%). Worthing, which has fewer incidents, will have 9% of the county’s fire engines. To make matters worse, when Crawley’s two appliances are at a call, the nearest fire engine to reinforce them, or to attend second calls will be over 5 miles away. By contrast Worthing, with three fire engines, has reinforcements available within just 3 miles, and another about 5 miles away.

County Councillors have a duty to protect the people of West Sussex. They should reject these proposals and hold an inquiry in to why we have been deceived.

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