Lives at risk as Tories and Lib Dems back cuts

Conservative and Lib-Dem councillors are backing cuts to the fire and rescue service that would put lives in Somerset at risk.

FBU rep Jez Rawlings with Labour county candidates Maureen Smith, Andy Lewis and Lesley Culverhouse
FBU rep Jez Rawlings with Labour county candidates Maureen Smith, Andy Lewis and Lesley Culverhouse

Members of West Somerset Labour Party heard the frightening details of the planned cuts at their February branch meeting. Jez Rawlings – the Fire Brigades Union representative for retained firefighters in Somerset – said the proposed cuts would drastically reduce the ability to deal with major fires, road crashes and other emergencies.

The corporate plan drawn up by Devon and Somerset Fire Authority would slash the number of full time firefighters by 149. Taunton fire station now has two fire engines crewed by full-timers. That would be cut to one.

The government has said front line services will not be hit. But Jez told the West Somerset meeting that in making savings the authority had gone “straight to the front line.” He said that although no fire station closure are provided in this round of cuts, he expects to see closures in the next stage of the process.

Jez was among the firefighters called to the horrific crash on the M5 near Bridgwater in November 2011. He said a stretched and depleted service would find it much more difficult to deal with any similar tragedy.

The fire authority is trying to plug a hole in its budget, which could be filled with a modest increase in council tax. But fire authority members were told – and accepted – that increasing the precept was “not an option.”

We Name the Guilty Men – and Women

There can be no doubt that the plan for these reckless cuts is a political decision – and it is a decision taken by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Eight Somerset county councillors are members of the fire and rescue authority. They are:

  • Cathy Bakewell (LD, Coker)
  • Ann Bown (Con, Bridgwater West)
  • Peter Burridge-Clayton (Con, Burnham on Sea North)
  • John Dyke (LD, Crewkerne)
  • Mark Healey (Con, Huntspill) Councillor Healey is chair of the fire authority.
  • Alvin Horsfall (LD, Frome South)
  • John Woodman (Con, Highbridge and Burnham South)
  • Derek Yeomans (Con, Langport)

The county elections are an opportunity to call these people to account.

Members can also make their views known by writing or emailing:

Consultation Officer, DSFRS, Clyst St George, Exeter, EX3 0NW.


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