At the July meeting of Sedgemoor District Council an Emergency motion was unanimously supported rejecting the Fire Authorities closure plans and ‘strongly opposing any reduction of service in the district’. The motion was moved by Tory Leader Cllr Duncan McGinty (East Polden) and seconded by Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater Westover). Leader of the Lib Dems on Sedgemoor, Clr Bill Revans (North Petherton) added his party’s support to the motion.
The motion reads;-
As was announced 19th June, “The way the fire and rescue service operates across Devon and Somerset could undergo its most significant change for 50 years under new proposals announced today. Some stations attend only a handful of fires each year and have more resources than they need. Elsewhere, more resources are needed to improve the response the Service can provide.The proposals published today seek to address these issues and also create more flexibility and capability to deliver targeted prevention and protection work to reach the most vulnerable members of society and help keep them safe.
Importantly, rather than just responding to emergencies when they have occurred from the existing fire stations, the Service has outlined an option that puts in place six additional wholetime crewed fire engines during the day that will move to where the risk is highest. Sometimes, these will be located in urban areas and sometimes they will be located in rural areas – the Service will use data to inform where emergencies are most likely to occur and will try to be in the right place at the right time to improve response as a result.
To fund these changes, the Service will need to consider closing a number of low risk/low activity fire stations, removal of low risk/low activity fire engines and make some other changes to the way in which some fire engines are crewed.”
Consultation opened for a six-week period commencing 1st July 2019.
The six options which will be presented to the Fire Authority are as follows:
Option 1 – Station closuresStation closures at Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham* and Woolacombe.
*Note: One appliance from Topsham will be relocated to Middlemoor.
Option 2 – Station closures and removal of third appliancesOption 1, plus: Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay and Yeovil Fire Stations all have three fire engines (two of which are crewed by ‘on call staff’). It is proposed that one of these ‘on call’ fire engines is removed from each of the four stations outlined.
Option 3 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances
Option 2, plus: Crediton, Lynton, Martock and Totnes all have two fire engines. It is proposed that one of these fire engines is removed from each of the four stations outlined.
Option 4 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances and change of status to day crewing
Option 3, plus: Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton currently have whole time crew on these fire stations 24/7. It is proposed that the station still operates on a 24/7 basis but at night, the fire engines are crewed by ‘on call’ staff.
Option 5 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing and to on-call at night only
Option 4, plus: Brixham, Chard, Dartmouth, Frome, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton, Wellington, Wells and Williton Fire Stations all have two fire engines. Rather than take away the second fire engine from these stations, it is proposed that the first fire engine is still crewed 24/7 with ‘on call’ staff but the second fire engine is crewed at night.
Option 6 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing, on-call at night only and introduction of day crewed roving appliances
Option 5, plus: It is proposed that six day-crewed fire engines (with trained Firefighters on the fire engine) are introduced which will be deployed in areas of forecasted high risk and/or where gaps in ‘on call’ cover is presented. These firefighters will undertake additional fire prevention visits and building fire protection inspections to help make people and buildings safer. They will be available to immediately respond to incidents and improve response times in the area located. Note: these 6 fire wholetime crewed (Full Time Equivalent) fire engines are in addition to the current wholetime fire stations that will be unaffected during the day. These existing wholetime fire stations are: Bridgwater, Taunton, Yeovil, Exeter (Danes Castle), Exeter (Middlemoor), Exmouth, Barnstaple, Torquay, Paignton, Plymouth (Crownhill), Plymouth (Greenbank), Plymouth (Camels Head).
Option two clearly proposes the reduction of the number of engines stationed in Bridgwater.
This Council considers that:
In the knowledge of the growing population of Sedgemoor, increased business and new homes, more jobs, people and vehicles on the road, the council would strongly oppose any reduction to the fire service provision across the District. While it is acknowledged that prevention and education is vital to reducing the risk of fire incidents, this should not be at the expense of the response service.
That the Chief Executive and all Group Leaders individually write to the Chief Fire Officer strongly opposing any reduction in service in the District.
Labour Support for FBU position
In seconding the motion Cllr Brian Smedley said that the Labour group supported the position as laid out by the Fire Brigade Union which clearly called for an additional option of no closures.
Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue service (DSFRS) consultation to cut provision. Use first, second and last line, then any of the other bits to suit council.
This council having considered the current consultation being run by DSFRS feels that:-
The Options proposed do not provide sufficient detail for the improvements claimed, particularly information on how the on-call system would be improved, how extra prevention and protection will be achieved, or how much would actually be re-invested into the service.
It fails to recognise the excellent work Firefighters already do to prevent injuries, building damage and environmental damage, and to respond to all types of incidents.
This council feels that the data given in the consultation is flawed and has an unachievable expectation, in that there is an assumption made that after the cuts, all assets will be available at all times, giving the false impression that the risk of fire deaths will reduce if the proposals are agreed, whereas statistically it is likely that risk would increase.
The revised attendance times make no reference to properties that may be disadvantaged by the proposed changes.
It should also be noted that if the proposals were to be adopted, around ⅓ of the residents of Devon and Somerset, over 600000 people, will see a slower response from the Fire and Rescue service.
As such this Council calls upon DSFRS authority members to reject in full the options proposed.