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.