This headline appeared online today, and was based on Cabinet Member David Barling’s statement at the recent County Council meeting. He claims to take a particular interest in fire & rescue and said that, based on his own knowledge, Hampshire fire crews only come in to West Sussex “about 50 times a year”.
Cabinet Member David Barling misleading Councillors
Well, either ignorantly or deliberately, he was very wrong. Official figures, used to calculate payments to Hampshire, show they come in to West Sussex many more times than he claimed:
The last published figures show:
2011/12 – 168 incidents
2012/13 – 138 incidents
2013/14 – 134 incidents
Later figures have not been published, but West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service confirmed that the Emsworth crew alone responded to 55 incidents in West Sussex during 2014-15. Emsworth firefighters also say that, in addition, they were called on to standby at West Sussex fire stations nearly 20 times.
Add in the responses from other Hampshire stations, plus standby calls, and the figures for 2014-15 must be in the region of three times a week. Given the cuts in West Sussex, this figure may well be greater as time goes on.
It was also quite shocking that David Barling tried to pretend that Hampshire responses were not worth worrying about, as they were “mostly things like dustbin fires”. Hampshire crews have attended as first response to a number of serious road crashes and fires, and also as support at larger incidents in Bognor Regis, Chichester, Oving, Selsey and West Wittering.
It does not matter if Councillor Barling misled his fellow Councillors, the press and the public deliberately or ineptly, he owes them all an apology. It is also high time that he agreed to allow a cross party group of Councillors to review the many concerns about the fire & rescue service he claims to know so much about.