Senior County Councillors have repeatedly said that they would mitigate the effects of removing fire engines from Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington by providing new 4x4 vehicles. Now, following a Freedom of Information request, it appears this information was at best misleading and at worst deceitful.
At the October County Council meeting both former Cabinet Member Lionel Barnard and his former Deputy Jim Rae insisted that Councillors need not worry as the 4x4s would be uprated. Councillors were told that the Chief Fire Officer and the Cabinet Member had given undertakings that the 4x4s at Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington would be upgraded.
New Cabinet Member David Barling told Councillors at the February meeting that the ‘super-duper new 4x4 vehicles' were being trialled and will be put in place. He also advised Councillors to focus ‘on what they don’t tell you’. Very apt in this case as the FOI has revealed that:
- The vehicles are not being trialled. So far officers have only visited other brigades to view their 4x4s.
- No reports have been submitted on these visits.
- They do not know what vehicle they will be buying.
- No decision has been made on which stations will receive them, although they do say the first is ‘likely to go to Midhurst’.
- The first one will not arrive until 2016.
- They have not yet prepared a business case for these ‘super-duper new 4x4 vehicles' that Councillors claimed would ‘be in place’.
The full reply and an outline functional requirement can be viewed on the WhatDoTheyKnow website.