Wednesday, 23 September 2015

County Councillors again try to ignore Fire & Rescue Service concerns

Once again County Councillor Margaret Evans, tried to stop me speaking during the “tell us your concerns” section of the Chichester South County Local Committee meeting last evening. My concern – the effect on parts of West Sussex of Hampshire Fire Authority cuts. I refused to be bullied and reminded her that this is a matter that directly affects people in the Committee’s area.

After explaining the dangers for West Sussex residents, I asked a question, “Following the closure of Bosham fire station, the reduction of fire engines in West Sussex from 46 to 35, and the 7% increase in building fires in West Sussex last year, how will you, as County Councillors, ensure that there is adequate protection for the Chichester South area, if Hampshire cuts go ahead?”

Her answer - Well I am not a fire officer, so that would have to be up to the fire officer, so I can’t really deal with that.

Leader of the Council, Louise Goldsmith, then said, “May I also suggest that we do not comment on other authorities, because we just don’t do that.” She later said, “Our Chief Fire Officer advises us accordingly, and as a professional we take his advice”.

They both also insisted that I should respond direct to the Hampshire consultation. Fortunately though there were some voices of reason and concern at the meeting.

County Councillor Sandra James said, “It’s pretty outrageous, as I sit on this panel, to listen to the leader and the chair say it’s not our business. She spoke about how important Emsworth and Havant fire crews were to the people in her division. She also asked for the Chief Fire Officer to provide her with the information she had requested, and for a link to the Hampshire consultation to be provided on the West Sussex County Council website.

She received no answer from the Chairman or the Council Leader to the first question, and it also became clear that they are not going to put a link on their website. The Chairman of Westbourne Parish Council, who said they are just one metre from Hampshire, pointed out that other parishes are unaware of the “serious changes that will have dire effects on our families”. His call for a link on the West Sussex website was also ignored.

So what does this say about the ruling group on the County Council?

1. They ignore their legal responsibility to ensure that West Sussex residents are properly protected.
2. They accept the advice of the Chief Fire Officer without checking if it is good or bad advice.
3. They dismiss anyone who dares to suggest that the advice they are given may not be in the best interests of West Sussex residents.
4. They won’t express any concern to the Hampshire Fire Authority, “because we just don’t do that.”
5. They bury their heads in the sand and cross their fingers, instead of properly reviewing the operation of the Fire & Rescue Service in West Sussex.

How bad will things have to get before they begin to carry out their responsibilities properly?

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