The petition is off to a very good start, with over 10% of the signatures required in just one week. Thanks to everyone who has spread the message, but please keep telling friends and family and don’t forget about the Petition Poster in the files section on the Facebook page. This can be printed off and displayed on suitable notice boards. If you are not on Facebook and want a Petition Poster please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sadly, I have been getting reports that firefighters have been warned not to sign the petition. I want to make it quite clear that there are no restrictions for County Council staff, including firefighters, that prevent them from signing petitions, joining online groups, ‘liking’ Facebook posts etc., when they are off duty. Bear in mind though that comments in online groups should still not be abusive, untrue or reveal properly confidential information.
Where these concerns originated from is not clear, but there is no evidence of any official warnings about the petition, or participation in the West Sussex Fire & Rescue Stop the Cuts campaign. This may well have started from uninformed comment. I remember how well the fire service grapevine used to work and how things can quickly become distorted and exaggerated.
In fact, if any manager was to threaten or even apply informal pressure on this topic, it is they who would be in breach of WSCC policies and liable to disciplinary proceedings.
However, to be absolutely sure I discussed it with a County Councillor. He has now spoken to the Chief Fire Officer who has confirmed that the misleading information is not coming from him or his senior management team and he has said that if any member of staff wants to sign the petition then that is entirely a matter for them.
There is also guidance on the WSCC Intranet for anyone who wishes to know more about where they stand on expressing their personal views on democratic matters. Some senior officers do have some restrictions in relation to certain political activities, but even they can sign petitions. Most employees can exercise exactly the same democratic rights as any other member of the public.
So please spread the word.