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 on Valentine’s Day (February 14).
But local union members are convinced that the county’s rapidly growing population — which swells further with tourists over summer — means such significant 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.
“Attendance times have already risen over the last few years, and any further increases are not acceptable to firefighters or the public.”
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 because prevention work has reduced the risks of fires and other emergencies.
But at the same time funding has been reduced due to cuts in Government grants and pressures to keep council tax levels low.
Chief fire officer Des Prichard told the Gazette the losses would not affect the services 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 of getting eight firefighters to 60 per cent of calls within eight minutes.
“We intend to maintain our 24 stations across the service.
“We have to save money and this level of saving is likely to mean 50 to 80 operational posts being lost.”