BREAKING NEWS: 20 more firefighters and another engine for Horsham

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Horsham fire station will gain 20 more firefighters and another engine as part of budget plans which have been backed by West Sussex County Council (WSCC).

Under the proposal the fire engine and entire Horley crew will be relocated to Horsham in a bid to improve response times in the north and central areas of West Sussex.

If plans are not scuppered, the merge will take place by April 2013.

It would see three fire engines operating from Horsham instead of two, and the number of firefighters increase from 32 to 52.

The plans were revealed today (Wednesday October 10) and form part of a £2.5M budget slash as part of the wider £79M that has to be saved by the county council.

Gary Towson, a spokesperson for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Horley Fire Station is located just within the West sussex county border although the majority of the 500 calls it received in 2011 to 12 were into Surrey.

“It was a suggestion that came from Horley firefighters during the consultation when it appeared they were first going to Crawley.

“We were originally looking at moving it to Crawley, but we looked at the attendance times and the Crawley times would have been fairly unaffected, but help improve operations in the Horsham district.”

He added that the service was ‘not abandoning Horley’ and talks are underway with Surrey.

No fire stations will be closed under the plans, all 40 of the service’s frontline fire engines will also remain and there will be no increase in agreed attendance times.

Plans were backed by Christine Field, the West Sussex County Council (WSCC) cabinet member for Public Protection, following a ten-week public consultation.

Community safety work including free home fire safety checks will continue, as will the wider role the fire service has with young people to educate about fire safety and reduce anti-social behaviour.

The proposals, many of which came from staff suggestions, include changes to crewing for specialist vehicles and reductions in middle managers.

WSFRS currently has 379 wholetime and 285 retained firefighters that respond to emergencies from its 25 fire stations. A restructure would see the wholetime number reduced to 348 and 12 fewer non-operational support roles. There would be no reduction in the number of retained firefighters.

Most of the wholetime roles will be saved by reverting to the alternate crewing system for an Aerial Ladder Platform at Worthing and a Heavy Rescue Tender at Crawley, and by moving crews from Horley to merge with colleagues at Horsham Fire Station.

Consultation with staff and unions is ongoing but the Service believes the savings can be found without the need for compulsory redundancies.

Christine said the majority of people responding in the consultation had supported the proposals and that she was satisfied essential services would be maintained.

“I think people understood these were sensible proposals given the tough economic pressures on public services. The reductions in grant funding means budget cuts are inevitable, and whilst it’s never easy to reduce staff, the evidence put forward by the Fire & Rescue Service has demonstrated quite clearly that essential services would continue and that risks to firefighters and the public would not increase.

“The Service’s annual report published last month showed a decline in the number of injuries from accidental dwelling fires and it’s important that this downward trend continues.

“With these proposals I think the public can be reassured that despite the pressure on budgets, our firefighters can still deliver an excellent service carrying out their community safety role and responding to emergencies when they are really needed.”

The decision will come into effect from October 19 at the end of the county council’s call-in period.