The Fire Brigades Union has said it was ‘not surprised’ that West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service had been on the receiving end of a highly critical inspection report.
Accusing West Sussex County Council of the ‘systematic decimation’ of the service, the union called for millions of pounds of budget cuts to be reversed.
Joe Weir, South East FBU regional secretary, said: “Since 2010, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service have cut £7m from their budget, axed 11 fire appliances and removed 305 firefighters – a loss of 37 per cent of its workforce.
“We are not surprised to see that the outcome of these cuts has been a failure to adequately protect the residents of West Sussex.
“It is a sad indictment on [the] county council that their financial decisions have resulted in the inability of WSFRS to fulfil its core functions.
“For too long the county council have treated the fire and rescue service with disdain, disregarding the firefighters who risk their lives to protect the community.
“We call on [the council] to reverse the dangerous cuts they have imposed on WSFRS and to fund the service properly.
“Without this, the deep-rooted issues highlighted by the inspectorate will not be rectified.”
Both Neil Stocker, acting chief fire officer, and council leader Louise Goldsmith have given assurances that the service is safe and that work will be carried out to address the issues raised in the report.
Mr Stocker said: “I want to reassure the public that the safety of our residents remains the top priority for our fire and rescue service and we are determined to address the concerns raised in the report.”
Mrs Goldsmith said: “I want to reassure the public that we have a fire service that is there for them in an emergency.
“Last year we attended 9,292 incidents – up from the previous year, we attended 88 per cent of calls within our response times and in our post incident surveys, 99 per cent of residents tell us they are happy with our service.”