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Union warns of potential fire cuts' effect on Horley emergencies
1:20pm Tuesday 11th September 2012 in Local News
Horley Fire Station could lose its fire appliance and the town face longer response times to emergencies, potentially putting local lives at risk, under drastic spending cuts.
That was the warning this week from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
The union is warning that front-line fire and rescue services are in danger of being axed because of “savage cuts” proposed to make savings being sought by West Sussex County Council.
And the union has highlighted Horley Fire Station's appliance, saying it could go under the proposals.
Currently, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service operates on a largely historic model that has seen little change over the years, and its area includes the Horley station in Povey Cross Road. The station is home to the service's acclaimed Technical Rescue Unit (TDU), one of an elite number of units around the UK which are called upon in cases of international disaster, such as earthquakes.
In a statement this week, the FBU said a reduction in the local authority grant from the Government, combined with a freeze on council tax increases, had affected every department within the county council.
The FBU stated: “The fire service has to find £2.5 million in savings from its budget, despite claims by the Prime Minister that front-line services will not be cut.”
It stated: “Less than two years after ‘efficiency savings’ saw firefighters made redundant and stations close, West Sussex County Council are demanding further savings.”
The union continued: “One of the proposals is to remove the fire appliance from Horley fire station.
“This will affect response time into Horley town.”
The union urged: “The people of Horley should make themselves aware of this, as West Sussex County Council has no obligation to consult there.”
The public consultation is now underway but the FBU said it has “serious concerns at how low-profile and vague this process seems.”
Mick Cambers, the FBU chairman for West Sussex, said: “I would seriously urge members of the public to visit the West Sussex County Council website and look at the depth of information that is available for you to make an informed response to the Fire Redesign proposals.”
He said the public consultation will end on September 21, and urged people to let West Sussex County Council know their views.
Mr Cambers said: “Cuts on this scale will increase the times that firefighters take to attend emergency incidents. “This will endanger members of the public involved in an incident and put firefighters attending such emergencies at greater risk.”
He said: “Fire appliances carry the phrase ‘Making West Sussex Safer’. If these savage cuts go ahead that commitment will be severely affected.”
West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service employs 950 personnel and over the course of a year deals with about 11,000 incidents of all types.
The FBU cautioned: “A call to the fire service will result in a fast and professional attendance. “These cuts will seriously put the future of that high level of service in doubt.”
A spokesman for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said they were not under an obligation to consult in Horley because it lies over the county border in Surrey.
He said: “It's Surrey that have the statutory duty for providing fire cover and services there.
“At the moment it costs us about £1.2 million a year to maintain the fire station at Horley, and Surrey contribute about £75,000 a year towards that running cost.”
He said out of the approximately 500 calls a year to Horley Fire Station, more than half are into the Surrey area.
He added: “All enquiries into the provision of fire cover in Horley are basically being referred to Surrey County Council and Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.
“We are in discussions with them into what our proposals mean or not with regard to risk in their areas, and about how to provide an appropriate risk-based service in the Horley area.”