Cuts to the number of firefighters could have a massive impact on the safety of locals in Eastbourne, according to union officials.
Controversial plans to slash firefighter numbers by 20 per cent across East Sussex will also put those who keep their jobs in greater risk, a spokesman for the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) claimed this week.
Members of East Sussex Fire Authority will vote on whether to consult on plans to reduce firefighter numbers by 50 to 80 posts across the county today (February 14).
But local union members are convinced that the county’s rapidly growing population means cuts to the small fire service will put the public’s lives at risk.
Simon Herbert, chair of the FBU in East Sussex, said, “It is a shame that it would appear that chief fire officers and their highly paid managers are content to cut fire cover and put public lives at risk due to budget reduction rather than stand up to Westminster officials and state they cannot run their fire and rescue services safely with such budget reductions. As a result of this we are seeing the fire service cut to shreds up and down the country.”
Firefighter numbers are being cut and fire stations closed up and down the country as a result of a reduction in budgets forced upon services by central government.
Mark Brown, FBU secretary for East Sussex, said, “These proposals would mean the public waiting longer for a fire engine when they need one, whether because of fire, flooding or to be cut from a road traffic collision.”
The FBU is now urging the people of Eastbourne to write to the councillors who make up East Sussex fire authority and ask them to oppose the cuts. Eastbourne’s representative is Councillor Barry Taylor, who can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A spokeswoman for the fire authority said the number of incidents firefighters deal with has fallen over the years, due to prevention work, and funding has been reduced due to cuts in Government grants and pressures to keep council tax levels low.
Chief fire officer Des Prichard said losses would not affect the service’s remit to get “eight firefighters to 60 per cent of calls within eight minutes.”
He said, “We have a plan to look at all our costs. The reality in a single service organisation most of our costs are on our staff.
“We will continue to hit that service standard.”