Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Hampshire Fire & Rescue Cuts approved

Another sad day with a decision from the Hampshire Fire Authority that residents in Hampshire and neighbouring counties will pay the price for. 

I was unable to listen to the whole debate, but what I did hear showed that Councillors did not fully understand the implications of these cuts and were dazzled by new technology claims, which don't stack up in the real World.

In an earlier radio interview with the Chief Fire Officer, it was like listening to a second hand car salesman telling you that this great car, that had been clocked, had one little old lady owner who never used it much and it’s a bargain. The reality is:

1. They intend to dishonestly compare response times for the existing crew of four in a proper fire engine, with the response time for two firefighters in a converted van, in an effort to massage the figures. 

2. To meet response times, retained (part-time) crews will be pressured to respond with just two, rather than wait for more firefighters to arrive at the station.

3. An inadequate response may be as quick as now, but an effective response will often take much longer. 

4. The high pressure lance will only improve conditions inside for firefighters who eventually enter in breathing apparatus, but it is of no use at all for anyone in need of rescue. 

5. Two firefighters will not be able to make a meaningful intervention at many incidents. Even at fires, with just two firefighters, it will often take longer to check the situation and carry out other essential tasks, which will delay any use of the new technology.

6. It is a change in approach, but one which will see the fire & rescue service being less effective, with more loss of life and more property damage as a result.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Comments sent to West Sussex Town and Parish Councils affected by the Hampshire fire cuts:

I know that many of you are concerned about the proposed Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service cuts and the effect that will have on response times in your areas. Some of you were at the Chichester South CLC meeting, when Louise Goldsmith (County Council Leader) emphatically said that West Sussex would not comment on those proposals. Sadly, a Hampshire Fire Authority report now reveals that, not only did West Sussex County Council comment, they actually endorsed the cuts.

I am sure you will also be concerned to hear that, following the consultation, the Hampshire cuts on the West Sussex border are unchanged. Instead of ten Hampshire fire engines close to West Sussex, there will only be three. The others are to be replaced with an Intermediate Vehicle and six First Response Vehicles, all of which will carry less equipment, water and firefighters. This comes after West Sussex closed Bosham fire station five years ago, and removed second fire engines from Midhurst and Petworth last year.

Hampshire concealed the figures for incidents they attend in West Sussex, and they have grossly exaggerated the benefits of new technology. The only information released about the new vehicles is that they will be smaller and will often respond with just two firefighters, instead of at least four. This is a large scale and dangerous experiment, which is not supported by evidence or trials. Protection for West Sussex residents near the Hampshire border will be significantly reduced.

Instead of West Sussex County Council offering realistic funding for the incident responses provided by Hampshire, they actually seconded an officer to Hampshire to help with the cuts. Active support for cuts, even though they admitted they were concerned about increased response times in West Sussex.

I am sure that you will feel let down, especially after Louise Goldsmith’s pronouncement about not getting involved with another authority’s business. You may wish to ask her how she will plug the gap when Hampshire make their cuts. Their Fire Authority meets on Wednesday to rubber stamp the plans.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Thanks for signing the petition

Thank you to all who signed the petition against cuts to West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, and to those who worked so hard collecting signatures. Nearly 4,000 people signed, which prompted a County Council debate.
Sadly, Cabinet Member David Barling insulted the petitioners by dismissing their concerns as ‘disinformation’. Most of the information used to support the petition was official County Council information, so either that was official disinformation, or he is just resorting to bluff and bluster.
Most despicable was his callous disregard for those who will die as a result of the cuts. Council research predicted an extra death every other year, information that they tried to hide. Now Mr Barling simply told Councillors to “put it out of your heads”.
Independent, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP Councillors also voiced serious concerns, but the Conservatives arrogantly ignored calls for a task group to investigate. Only those with something to hide would oppose a proper investigation.
Despite firefighters’ best efforts, Conservative cuts and mismanagement have resulted in a rapidly deteriorating service. Response times last year were the worst since records began, and worse than any other service in the south-east. Cutting fire crews by a quarter meant that was sadly inevitable.
Mr Barling should apologise to West Sussex residents for his disgraceful comments during the debate and for covering up the deterioration in our fire service’s performance. Rest assured, we will continue to speak out on behalf of those who genuinely care about their fire & rescue service.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Final Hampshire proposals will seriously affect West Sussex fire cover

I must first apologise for the lack of posts on this blog. Things have been going on in the background, but health issues and other demands have limited my computer time.

I have just seen the final Hampshire proposals and it seems no notice has been taken of concerns and views expressed by West Sussex residents. The proposals go to the Fire Authority meeting on 24 February. As they will affect West Sussex they are:

Emsworth - Downgraded to a First response vehicle. Firefighters cut from 12 to 9.

Grayshott - Downgraded to a First response vehicle. Firefighters cut from 12 to 8.

Havant - Downgraded to an Enhanced Vehicle and a First response vehicle (Wholetime shift strength cut from 7 to 4, and RDS cut from 12 to 10).

Horndean - Downgraded to an Intermediate vehicle. Firefighters cut from 12 to 11.

Liphook - Downgraded to a First response vehicle. Firefighters cut from 12 to 9.

Petersfield - Downgraded to an Enhanced Vehicle and a First response vehicle. Firefighters cut from 20 to 15.

Waterlooville - Downgraded to an Enhanced Vehicle and a First response vehicle. Firefighters cut from 20 to 14.

In summary – 10 Pumps cut to just 3, with 1 Intermediate vehicle and 6 First response vehicles. 

Currently crewed by 40 to 60 firefighters. In future crewed by 26 to 47 firefighters.

Despite the West Sussex County Council Leader Louise Goldsmith saying that they would not comment on the proposals, as "we just don't do that", they did submit a response to the consultation supporting the Hampshire proposals!