Thursday, 12 February 2015

800 signatures and open letter to County Councillors

Thanks to excellent work by Labour Councillors and supporters in Crawley yesterday collecting paper signatures, and more people signing online the petition has now passed the 800 mark. Not bad for less than two weeks. 

Keep letting people know and remind Firefighters and other WSCC employees that they are allowed to sign the petition and will suffer no repercussions. That is in writing from the Chief Fire Officer and Executive Director Communities and Public Protection.

Ahead of the County Council budget meeting tomorrow I have written to all County Councillors as follows:

"Dear County Councillor,

County Councillors Save Lives could be a headline.  At tomorrow’s County Council meeting you have the opportunity to justify that by rejecting the fire service budget cuts. Do you, like firefighters, have the necessary courage to do that? Councillor Goldsmith has pledged not to bow to party political pressure, so none of you should be disciplined for acting to protect the lives of your constituents.

I can understand that some of you may have been lulled in to a false sense of security by statements from the Cabinet and the Fire & Rescue Service. However, more and more information is coming to light that has been kept from the public, and may well have been kept from you. So before you decide what to do tomorrow, please consider if you have been told, by the former Cabinet Member for Resident’s Services or the Chief Fire Officer, any of the following:

That following previous cuts, West Sussex residents now have to wait, on average, 30% longer for help to arrive than East Sussex residents.

That despite fewer calls, fire deaths in West Sussex have been rising, whilst they have been falling in the rest of the UK.

That some fire engines crewed by retained firefighters are unavailable more than they are available.

That fire stations do not have an approved establishment for retained firefighters, which results in some stations with one fire engine having twice as many firefighters as another. Effectively guaranteeing that the ones with less will often fail to crew their fire engine. There really cannot be any other organisation or business that does not start by determining staffing levels required to meet the ‘business’ need. More wishful thinking than proper management.

That retained fire engine availability dropped 10% in one year (2012/13 to 2013/14) and is now 16% below the West Sussex target (published as 88% in 2011/12).

That WSCC modelling showed that there would be an extra death every other year and £80,000 extra damage every year, as a direct result of the cuts.

That if later claims the modelling may have been wrong were true, it would also mean that the figures used to justify spending over £1 million to improve response times at Littlehampton will also be wrong.

That government and independent research has proven that response times have a direct bearing on lives and property saved. The budget cuts will inevitably result in longer response times to many calls, especially in rural areas.

The people of West Sussex do not deserve front-line cuts to such an essential life saving service. You can stop those cuts, please do.

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