It was disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, that at today’s meeting of West Sussex County Council there were more false claims and deception about the fire service. Councillor Michael Jones had submitted an amendment that would have reversed the fire service cuts, but it was voted down.
I also understand that there were written questions submitted to the meeting about the fire service, but we did not get to hear them. They used meeting procedures to first move the written questions further on in the agenda and then excluded them completely, because of ‘a lack of time’. Even shabbier was refusing to allow responses to the written answers at the next meeting.
David Barling, the new Cabinet Member for Resident’s Services, said in his response that it is often about what they don’t tell you that you need to focus on. Well let us do that.
1. When Mr Barling told the meeting that professional fire officers had come up with the changes, he did not say they could only come up with changes that also saved £1.6 million pounds.
2. When he claimed that the Chief Fire Officer rejected his ‘offer’ of having that money back, he did not say it would be professional suicide to accept it.
3. When he tried to justify cutting fire engines to just 35, by saying there were less calls, he did not say that fire engines were only increased by one to 46 when calls increased from 5,000 to over 15,000. He also did not say that, whilst calls have only dropped back to just under 10,000, fire engines have already been cut to just 40.
4. When he said the Water Carrier from Littlehampton, where crewing is not a problem, would move to Petworth, he did not say that when it goes out on calls there will be more occasions when Petworth does not have enough firefighters left to crew their only fire engine.
5. When he said that these were not cuts, but a service for the future, he did not say that in future more people will have to wait longer for the fire service to arrive and firefighters will have to wait longer for assistance.
6. When he said it would not be done if they thought there was a risk, he did not say that all the evidence showed that more lives will be lost and property damage will increase.
Yes, you did get one thing right Mr Barling, we need to focus on what you did not say.