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.