A FORMER firefighter has launched a scathing attack on the latest fire service cuts.
Tony Morris, of Little Breach, Chichester, called the cuts ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ and accused the service of misleading the public.
The service has to save £1.6m in the next year and has taken pride in the fact it has not had to close any fire stations after several years of cuts.
However, Mr Morris said: “What the public has not been told is that, since 1948, the area covered by West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has seen six fire stations closed and 17 fire engines removed from operational service,
“These proposals will remove another five fire engines, even though the call levels are three times greater than they were then.”
He said the removal of the fire engines would make West Sussex ‘one of the worst resourced services in the UK’ and compared it to Cornwall, which will have 43 fire engines and crews, which is one for every 12,500 people, whereas West Sussex will have 35, one for every 23,000 people.
He made a number of arguments against the proposals by the fire service, in a six-page document.
This includes his claim that reducing the number of engines in Midhurst and Petworth from one to two will undoubtedly slow response times in these areas.
Gary Towson, the communications manager at the fire service, responded to the claims by Mr Morris and said: “The public consultation has just ended and a full and detailed response on the feedback received (including points made by Mr Morris) will be presented for scrutiny by the WSCC environment and community services select committee at its meeting on September 18.
“Mr Morris makes a number of assumptions and misleading statements in his ‘report’ and it is disappointing that he did not contact us during the 12-week consultation for clarification or further information on any of the issues he has raised.
“In particular we strongly refute his suggestion that fire service officers have misled councillors and the public at consultation meetings. At every meeting we have explained the context of these proposed changes to our service including the numbers of fire engines.
“The fire and rescue service continues to evolve and its role today is much broader than the one in 1948 that Mr Morris refers to. These draft proposals reflect the demands of a more modern era and are aimed at providing quality services to people in West Sussex now and in the future, not yesteryear.”
The public can attend the committee meeting at County Hall, Chichester, from 10.30am on Thursday, September 18.