West Sussex council agrees fire service changes

Fire crews are now damping down
Fire crews are now damping down

Changes to the way West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service will operate in the future were formally approved today (Monday) by West Sussex County Council.

The authority’s Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, Lionel Barnard, who has responsibility for fire and rescue, said the decision will create a fire service that is fit for the 21st century and will meet the needs of West Sussex residents now and in the future.

The proposals, which will save £1.6million, include:

• Keeping all fire stations open, but changing the way fire engines are crewed by introducing new shift patterns and reducing the overall number of staff, including firefighters.

• Keeping the same number of 24hr crewed immediate response fire engines, but moving one from a temporary base (Horsham) to a permanent location (Littlehampton) to replace the current day-crewed fire engine there. This would be a net reduction of one fire engine, but would upgrade crewing at Littlehampton to 24hr immediate response.

• Removing the second fire engines at Midhurst, Petworth, and Storrington, and the third fire engine at Crawley. These are crewed by retained firefighters.

• Broadening the prevention role of firefighters, and investing in specialist equipment and training to support communities during severe weather and widespread flooding.

Lionel said: “We have listened to everyone who contacted us with views about the proposals during the 12-week consultation, and the comments made by the Environmental Services Select Committee last week, and I’ve taken the decision that I have because the evidence is there to support it.

“The number of emergency calls the fire service receives has fallen, and the types of incident crews respond to has changed. We need to adapt our service to reflect this.

“This isn’t just about money. If we didn’t have to save a penny these changes would still be needed because this is about improving our service and building a fire service that is fit for the 21st century.”

Lee Neale, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s deputy chief fire officer, said: “Our proposals are based on extensive data and the professional judgment of a wide range of fire service staff.

“We have done a huge amount to target prevention work to those most at risk and want to continue to work even more closely with the communities we serve to reduce the likelihood of emergencies from occurring in the first place.

“We continuously monitor our performance and will ensure we deliver services that meet the needs of people across West Sussex.”

The Environmental Services Select Committee will formally review any impact from the changes one year after their implementation.

Lionel’s full decision report will be published in full on West Sussex County Council’s website this afternoon.