Conservatives Take Positive Action to Prevent Fire Service Cuts

Conservatives Take Positive Action to Prevent Fire Service Cuts

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Mike Weatherley, Conservative Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade, and Brighton & Hove City Council Group Leader, Geoffrey Theobald, have written a joint letter to the Fire Services Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, urging him to intervene to enable the merger of the East and West Sussex Fire Services.

At its meeting this week, the East Sussex Fire Authority is being asked to agree savings proposals which include cuts to frontline fire services in Brighton & Hove, including the loss of one of the citys five fire engines and significant reductions in staffing. West Sussex Fire Service is also planning to cut around 40 fire fighters jobs.

In their letter to Brandon Lewis, Geoffrey and Mike argue that these frontline cuts would not be necessary if the two fire services in Sussex were to merge, creating significant savings in management and back office costs. Plans for a merger were drawn up a couple of years ago and got to an advanced stage, only for West Sussex County Council, as Fire Authority, to pull out. Brighton & Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council and the East Sussex Fire Authority all support a merger.

Geoffrey said: I have argued for many years that a merger makes both financial and logistical sense. I simply cannot understand why West Sussex continue to resist it. After all, the Police service operates successfully Sussex-wide and the Ambulance Service covers an even bigger area without any problems. For the sake of the residents and council taxpayers of both East and West Sussex, we would like the Minister to intervene to enable this sensible practical solution.

Mike said: The tough job of getting the nations books back into shape inevitably means funding cuts to our valuable public services. The only way that I can see the same level of service from our local fire service being maintained is through a merger with neighbouring West Sussex.

Full text of the letter is below:

Dear Brandon,

Merger of East and West Sussex Fire Services

We are writing to ask for you to intervene to facilitate the merger of East and West Sussex Fire Services.

At its meeting this week, the East Sussex Fire Authority is being asked to agree a savings package of 7.1 million, to be realised by 2018/19. Part of these savings proposals include cuts to frontline fire services in Brighton & Hove, including the loss of one of the citys five fire engines and significant reductions in staffing. West Sussex is also planning significant staffing reductions.

We believe that these proposals, if agreed, will have a serious negative impact on public safety in a large area stretching from Shoreham in the west to Newhaven in the east.

Furthermore, we strongly believe that these frontline reductions would not be necessary if the two fire services in Sussex were to merge. Plans for a merger were drawn up a couple of years ago and got to an advanced stage, only for West Sussex County Council, as Fire Authority, to pull out. Brighton & Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council and the East Sussex Fire Authority all support a merger but West Sussex County Council remain opposed.

Not only would a merger make financial sense, it would also be logistically more efficient. East and West Sussex share a long border which passes through the Greater Brighton area. Moreover it would bring the fire service into line with the Police service which operates successfully Sussex-wide. The Ambulance Service covers an even bigger area without any problems.

We are asking you to use your good office to bring pressure to bear on West Sussex County Council, as Fire Authority, to agree to this merger that would lead to a more efficient and responsive service across the whole of Sussex and avoid the need for frontline cuts.

Best wishes

Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald OBE Mike Weatherley MP

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