Plans to create a single Sussex fire authority

PLANS are on the table to merge two fire services to make one county-wide organisation.

East and West Sussex Fire and Rescue Services are discussing ways to work closer and one option is a merger to form a new service covering the whole of Sussex and the City of Brighton & Hove.

The idea of a merger was first mooted in December 2010, and the two organisations have been assessing the overall benefits of merging.

A spokesperson said, “Closer working aims to reduce management costs, streamline back office functions, improve operational resilience and also preserve local community services to the public following the Government grant reductions both organisations are having to absorb.

“East Sussex Fire Authority and West Sussex County Council have both agreed that the options being considered should be narrowed down to either more formal collaboration between the two services or a full-scale merger.

“The next stage in developing the business case is being completed and its recommendations will be considered in a confidential session by East Sussex Fire Authority at its meeting tomorrow (Thursday June 2).”

The merger will also be discussed at West Sussex County Council’s Community Services Select Committee in June.

A decision will be taken by Pete Bradbury, the county council’s cabinet member for public protection, will be made on July 1.

A business case will then be made public and a joint announcement will be made shortly afterwards.

If both organisations agree on the merger a twelve-week public consultation period would then take place before any final decisions are taken. Feedback from the consultation would be fully considered before a final decision is made.

A final business case, will then be presented to East Sussex Fire Authority and West Sussex County Council in December.

If agreed, a merger would be subject to Government approval and could come into effect from April 2013.