Fire chief ‘wouldn’t want a penny’ of £1.6m reductions back

The redesign comes into force in April
The redesign comes into force in April

THE chief fire officer ‘wouldn’t want a penny back’ of the £1.6million which will be cut from the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Services budget.

That was the claim from David Barling, the new cabinet member for residents’ services at last Friday’s West Sussex County Council budget meeting.

Labour proposed an amendment to reverse the £1.6m cuts, which were voted in by county councillors last October and come into force this April.

Cllr Barling insisted the redesigning of the fire services, which will see a second fire engine at Midhurst and Petworth removed and fewer firefighters across Bognor and Chichester, had been done by experts.

He said: “I can promise you today that I have asked the chief fire officer repeatedly, if I gave you back £1.6m, would you reverse any of the changes that have been made?

“And the answer is a resounding no, not one penny would be put in to undo the service which has been designed for the future.”

Labour councillor Michael Jones proposed the amendment to take the £1.6m from the £4.723m of council contingency reserves.

He said: “The leader and the cabinet member for finance tell us how awful things are and that we must cut everything. Mr Brown calls it efficiencies, but the reality is rather different.

“The fire services is one frontline cut for you, Mr Brown. Let the service continue as it is.

“This isn’t a fire service which is lean and efficient, it is one which is spread thinly, alarmingly so across the county.”

A petition launched earlier this month to reverse the cuts has so far received more than 800 signatures.

View the petition here