Fire Authority refuses to face public scrutiny of its station closures by County Council committee: I’ve asked the Chair to invite firefighters from the threatened Devon stations to give evidence instead

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Fire Service consultation
PRESS RELEASE (20 August 2019)
The Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service is currently consulting on proposals to close 8 rural fire stations. The County Council’s Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee decided on 25th June to place the station closures on the agenda for its meeting on 26th September, and to invite the Fire Service to attend and present their case.
I learnt today that the Service has refused the invitation to attend the Scrutiny Committee, which is held in public, webcast and offers an opportunity for public participation. Instead they are offering a ‘masterclass’ on the proposals for county councillors, in private, which is scheduled for 4th September.
As a member of the Committee and County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton, representing the town of Colyton where one of the threatened stations is located – together with  surrounding densely rural parishes which rely on the prompt response of its firefighters – I am outraged by the refusal of the Fire Authority to face public scrutiny of its proposals and answer the objections of local communities and their elected representatives.
I have therefore asked Cllr Alistair Dewhirst, Chair of the Committee, to invite other interested parties (representatives of the threatened Devon fire stations and the Fire Brigades Union – Devon and Somerset) to present to the Committee instead, and for County officers to prepare a report to the committee on the proposals.
The Scrutiny Committee’s discussion of the proposals is the only opportunity which elected representatives will have to scrutinise them before the Fire Authority’s final decision which will be made on Bonfire Night, 5th November. (The Authority’s own meetings offer members of the public, including councillors, only the possibility to ask questions or present petitions, not to give their views directly.)
Martin Shaw, County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton

2 thoughts on “Fire Authority refuses to face public scrutiny of its station closures by County Council committee: I’ve asked the Chair to invite firefighters from the threatened Devon stations to give evidence instead

    Paul Slaven said:
    August 21, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    We received a request to attend the Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee meeting but the invitation was after the end of the Consultation – 26th September. We declined on the basis that it would then be too late for attending Councillors to support their constituents as the consultation would be closed.

    A further meeting has since been organised and we have confirmed attendance.

    Paul Slaven
    Communications Business Partner
    Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service

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      Martin Shaw responded:
      August 21, 2019 at 2:38 pm

      The fact that the Scrutiny meeting on September 26th would fall shortly after the consultation had closed was known in June, when the item was agreed for the September agenda. I felt then, in proposing the item, that the Scrutiny session would give enable better public accountability of the Fire Service’s plans than they would obtain in other ways. It would certainly have been before you finalised your plans.

      It is untrue to say that Scrutiny have ‘organised a further meeting’. The next Scrutiny meeting is due on 27th November, three weeks after the Fire Authority will have made its final decisions about the proposals. So if the Fire Service attend that meeting it will be too late to make a difference. The September 26th meeting was the only opportunity for effective scrutiny of the plans. It seems as though the Service is making excuses for avoiding been held accountable.

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