Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Hypocrisy alive and well in West Sussex

When anyone uses just two years’ data to report an increase in calls, or slower response times, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service protest that it is not 'accurate or transparent'. So surely they would never do that?

Wrong! In the report to the County Council Select Committee, that is reviewing the effects of Future Fire and Rescue 2 (last year's cuts), over 70% of the statistics used by the Chief Fire Officer only compare 2014/15 and 2015/16. Disappointingly, they still claim that the 2015/16 ‘improvements’ endorse their changes.

To add to the inaccuracy and lack of transparency, they have previously protested that the figures for 2014/15 are unrepresentative, because industrial action reduced crewing and increased response times. To add to that, the freeze on vacant posts ahead of Future Fire & Rescue 2 will also have had an adverse effect on performance in 2014/15.

So I actually agree with West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, their figures in this report are neither accurate nor transparent.

Another accusation they regularly regurgitate is ‘selective use of statistics’, but that is exactly what they have done in this report. You will remember the phantom ‘move a fire engine from Horsham to Littlehampton’ plan, when all they did was remove 23 firefighters from Horsham and increase the number at Littlehampton by 16.

There are several paragraphs about the effect of the change at Littlehampton, but there is absolutely no reference to the effect at Horsham. Presumably they have selectively excluded that data, because it would show a significant deterioration on second appliance response times in the Horsham area.

They also show how the availability of the first appliance at Littlehampton has improved from 92% to 100%, but don’t explain why the 2014/15 figure was not representative. The honest answer is that Future Fire and Rescue 2 has not made any difference to long term availability, as their figures for four years show.

Note: 2014/15 figures abnormally poor as a result of industrial action and the freeze on vacancies.

I also fail to understand why cutting the turnout time at Littlehampton for night calls by four minutes (day calls had already been cut), has only improved the average attendance time by just 28 seconds.

Among the many other inadequacies in the report, I must just mention the revised day crewing model at Shoreham, Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath and East Grinstead. Now this report is supposed to be reviewing the expected outcomes, which we were told would be a change to the delivery of community safety and ‘no change to emergency response’.

Now looking at other sections in the report, you might expect to see response times, availability figures and community safety statistics for at least 2014/15 and 2015/16, but no. Once again selectively omitted. Well here are the appliance availability figures, which strongly suggest that instead of no change’ to emergency response times, they must have got worse:

Note: 2014/15 figures abnormally poor as a result of industrial action and the freeze on vacancies.

We can only hope that, at today’s Select Committee meeting, County Councillors see that the report is a travesty and that they postpone discussion until they get a detailed and accurate report.

You can read the full ‘report’ via this link - Impact of Future Fire and Rescue 2

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