Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Was County Council Leader really ignorant?

This news release was issued today: 

West Sussex County Council Leader Louise Goldsmith last night failed to properly answer questions on the Council’s double-dealing over Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service’s cuts.

At the Chichester South CLC meeting, retired firefighter Tony Morris referred to Councillor Goldsmith’s previous insistence that West Sussex would not make any comment on the Hampshire cuts. Yet the Hampshire Fire Authority consultation report clearly shows that, not only did West Sussex comment, they actually endorsed the cuts.

Mr Morris asked if the meeting had been deliberately misled in September, or had the Chief Fire Officer ignored Councillor Goldsmith’s policies and instructions. Councillor Goldsmith’s dismissive response was, “at the time we weren’t going to respond, but we did and we are where we are with that”.

The West Sussex submission expressed concerns about increased response times and a less effective response in parts of West Sussex, west of Chichester and Midhurst. Mr Morris also asked, “what action are Councillors going to take to fill the gap in West Sussex fire cover that the Hampshire cuts will now create?”

In her reply Councillor Goldsmith ignored that question. It was only after County Councillor Sandra James criticised the Leader for not giving a proper answer that Councillor Goldsmith agreed that a letter would be sent to Mr Morris.

After the meeting, Tony Morris said, “Councillor Goldsmith’s response was unconvincing. I cannot accept that she was ignorant of her Chief Fire Officer’s support for the Hampshire cuts. Especially as, shortly after she insisted they would not comment, a West Sussex officer was sent on a six month secondment to help Hampshire promote their cuts. It is also extremely worrying that the Chief Fire Officer seems more concerned with supporting a colleague in another County, than he is about protecting the residents of West Sussex.”

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