Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Conservative Deception on Fire Cuts

Another example of deception from West Sussex County Council under Conservative control. They produced a Modelling and Analysis Technical Report on the likely effect of the 2014 cuts. They summarised the effects as “slightly more cost in terms of life and property damage (i.e. 3 extra dwelling fire fatalities in 100 years, £80,000 extra property damage for other building fires).”

The true results, hidden in complex tables, were a total of 55 extra fatalities in 100 years, made up of 3 extra dwelling fire fatalities, 6 extra fire fatalities in other buildings, and 46 extra fatalities at special service calls (e.g. road traffic collisions). Extra fire fatalities, not in buildings, were not shown.

The actual extra cost of property damage for other building fires in 100 years is £8,011,100. The extra property damage for dwelling fires (people’s homes) was not shown.

Increases all resulting from longer response times, which we are already seeing. The modelling does not take account of the worsening availability of fire engines, which further increases response times, so the modelling may well be an under-estimate.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Our Fire & Rescue Service is not safe in Conservative hands

There was a time when politicians, even Conservative ones, felt obliged to maintain an effective fire service. From 1948, for around 60 years, Conservative Councillors on West Sussex County Council did just that. Chief Fire Officers had to fight for the service, but well evidenced business cases usually secured the necessary resources. Never excessive, but always adequate.

However, the last eight years has seen a fundamental change, where the Conservative Government and Conservative County Council have failed residents and firefighters. The safety of citizens should always be a government's first duty, but our Conservative politicians are failing in that duty. Unprecedented cuts have been made to the service and they have used false promises and deceit to try to justify their actions.

I hope that people will remember this betrayal when they come to vote.

Note: The above figures include Horley fire station, which was located in West Sussex after the 1974 boundary changes, but continued to be operated by Surrey County Council for a few years until West Sussex County Council took full control. It provided first response to parts of Crawley from 1974 until it ceased to be an operational fire station after the last round of West Sussex County Council cuts.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

April 2017 Update

Covered in this update:

Chief Fire Officer financial scandal
Conservatives say cuts are dangerous
Cabinet Member obstructs scrutiny
Fake claims (fire deaths and fire engine availability)
Crawley residents hit by worst cuts
More incidents - Less fire engines
Meaningless promises on our fire & rescue service
More response time misinformation
Conservative Councillor lives in a different World

Monday, 3 April 2017

Damaging consequences of "Chief Fire Officer to retire" fiasco

There is another aspect of this ‘Chief Fire Officer to retire’ story.  What Council services will have to be cut to pay for two Chief Fire Officer pensions, in addition to the salaries of an existing and a new post?

Deputy Lee Neale, who retired recently, was doing Sean Ruth’s job, whilst he was off doing something else. Lee Neale would have been paid as Chief Fire Officer, so he is now presumably getting a Chief Fire Officer’s pension, instead of a lower Deputy’s pension. If Sean Ruth gets his way, that will be another Chief Fire Officer’s pension, presumably with a lump sum payment out of the budget, plus his continuing salary. Not forgetting of course, the new Chief Fire Officer’s salary.

At a time of austerity, when jobs and services have been cut, that is contemptible. Cabinet Member David Barling claimed last month that the Council could not afford to review the service’s increasing failures to meet response times. Something that would have cost significantly less than this travesty and something that would have benefited West Sussex residents.

There is also the damage this will do to firefighter morale. Many serving firefighters, who risk their lives instead of driving desks, are facing increased payments for a less beneficial pension and will have to work to the age of 60 to collect it. Now they see their chief officer trying to get his hands on his very much better pension, at the age of 50, and wanting to stay in his very well paid job.

So much for us all being in this together, all having to tighten our belts, etc, etc. If County Council Leader Louise Goldsmith has any credibility, then she ought to consider if this inept move has brought the County Council in to disrepute, and who should be held to account for that. 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Fake Chief Fire Officer Retirement

This is a story of greed, arrogance and contempt. 

The Chief Fire Officer and Executive Director for Communities & Public Protection jobs were combined, just three years ago, to “bring the fire service, community development and regulatory services together to help build safer and stronger communities”. There is nothing to stop Sean Ruth staying in this job, so why this plan? It can only be to get his hands on his fire service pension, but his problem is that Police and Fire Minister Brandon Lewis has banned senior fire officers from getting generous retirement pay-outs and then immediately returning to their jobs.

He and the Chief Executive appear to have cooked up this dodgy and very expensive scheme to get around the Minister’s ban. Sean Ruth continues to run the fire & rescue service, but will just be called Executive Director, and the new ‘Chief Fire Officer’ will, in practice, just be a Deputy dancing to Sean Ruth’s tune. As well as having to pay Sean Ruth’s high salary and generous pension, taxpayers will now also have to pay a new Chief Fire Officer.

Louise Goldsmith & Sean Ruth

Council Leader Louise Goldsmith and Cabinet Member David Barling must have approved this devious scheme, and arrogantly think they can ignore the Minister. If they want to reward Sean Ruth for supporting their false claims, that cuts were ‘improvements’, it should not be at taxpayers’ expense. They also arrogantly assume they will be re-elected and able to instruct Conservative Councillors to approve this disgraceful plan.

It shows contempt for firefighters and Council staff, who must do more, thanks to Council cuts. It shows contempt for Councillors, who were not consulted on this reorganisation at the top. Firefighters knew in January that Sean Ruth would retire this year, so there was no legitimate reason for hushing it up until after the last County Council meeting. It shows contempt for the Minister. Above all it shows utter contempt for the public, who will in no way benefit, but will have to fund this travesty. 

“It’s completely unacceptable for fire services to act in this way”.
Brandon Lewis (Minister for Policing and the Fire Service)

Finally, it is completely reckless to upset the Minister who has the final say in whether the Council or Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne will run our fire & rescue service. David Barling repeatedly shows why the service is not safe in his hands, and now this idiotic move. Sadly, Louise Goldsmith and David Barling have now gifted our fire & rescue service to Katy Bourne. They should be ashamed.