It’s now clear that if the Conservatives win the election, Colyton, Topsham, Budleigh Salterton and five other local fire stations will be closed

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If nothing’s been heard for a while about the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s proposals to close 8 stations and remove second engines from others (which were subject to a consultation that ended in September), that’s because of the General Election.

First, the Fire Authority meeting to make final decisions was postponed from November 8th to December 18th, and then – because that date would have meant publishing definite closure proposals during the election campaign – until January 10th.

Remember that the Authority has a majority of Conservative councillors from Devon and Somerset County Councils. Devon Tories already voted, in October, to block a discussion of the fire station closures at the County Council.

Now the Fire Authority chair, Cllr Sara Randall Johnson – who also chaired the infamous meeting of the Health Scrutiny committee which blocked ‘referring’ the bed closures in East Devon community hospitals – has told me that I and other councillors who represent affected communities, but are not members of the Authority, will not be able to address the Authority meeting on behalf of our communities.

The closures result from cuts to the Fire Service’s funding by Government. Now that the Tories have issued their ‘standstill’ manifesto – with no new funding for public services apart from a few misleading election gimmicks – it is clear that if Boris Johnson wins the election, there will be a new phase of austerity for almost all local services.

In these circumstances, with the election out of the way, the Tory majority on the Fire Authority will have little compunction about ratifying any closures that the Service propose in their response to the consultation.

The message is loud and clear – to save our fire stations, the next step is to deny Boris Johnson his majority and stop 5 years’ more austerity.

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