Devon and Somerset Fire Service

This is the moment the Conservatives voted to stop Devon County Council even discussing fire station closures – you have been warned, they are preparing to vote them through at the Fire Authority

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IMG_3177.JPGYesterday I tried to propose a motion to Devon County Council to halt the fire station closures. The grainy photo (above) taken from the webcast shows the Conservatives voting as a block to stop it even being discussedThey wanted to refer my motion  to the Cabinet who would amend it and bring it back to the Council in December. By then, the Fire Authority – chaired by Colyton’s former county councillor, Sarah Randall-Johnson – will have decided on its proposals at a meeting on 8th November.

Following this disgraceful episode, there can be little doubt that Tory councillors on the fire authority are preparing to vote through the fire station closures. Local people need to increase pressure on all the individual members of the Authority, change their minds.

Below, me urging the Council to discuss the motion.

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DCC Scrutiny Committee writes to Fire Service to express ‘disappointment’ after they declined to appear before it. My motion urging the Fire Authority to pause on the proposals goes before full Council on Thursday.

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Fire Service consultationAt its meeting last Thursday, the Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee, which had invited the Fire Service to present its ‘Safer Together’ proposals to the meeting, decided to express its ‘disappointment’ that the Service had declined to attend. As I pointed out in my paper to the Committee (agenda item 12, pp 43-46), the Service seemed to be avoiding detailed scrutiny of its proposals by elected councillors. I had put the item back on the agenda after the Chair had taken it off in the light of the Service’s decision.

The issue now goes to Council this Thursday, where I have proposed this motion:

‘This County Council expresses its concern at the failure of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to formally consult the Council, especially in the light of our role as partner under civil contingency legislation. This Council believes that the Service has not presented sufficiently detailed and costed proposals for additional prevention and protection work to outweigh the undoubted extra risk to many Devon residents from the closure of fire stations and removals of engines involved in the consultation proposals. In this light Council urges the members of the Fire Authority not to proceed with any of the options but to ask for further work by the Service on the future pattern of provision.”

The consultation closed on 22nd September and a report on its outcomes will go the Fire Authority on 8th November.

Fire Services aren’t supposed to cause ‘fire sales’, but ours aims to cash in the property value of Colyton and other stations in return for a vague promise of ‘more prevention’ – read my 21-point response to the consultation

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MY RESPONSE IS HERE

YOU NOW HAVE ONLY UNTIL SUNDAY (22nd) to submit your response – send to Safertogetherprogramme@dsfire.gov.uk or go online at https://www.dsfire.gov.uk/SaferTogether/ (but be warned that all 7 options include closing the 8 stations including Colyton).

Fire Service chiefs fail to answer questions at Devon County Council private briefing – but they are worried about the level of opposition

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Yesterday I attended the private ‘masterclass’ for county councillors with Chief officers Ian Howell and Pete Bond – arranged instead of the public Scrutiny hearing which the Fire Service had refused to attend.

  • I protested about the over-complicated design of the consultation and the way it has closed off opportunities for the public to express views about particular stations – they said it was signed off by the Consultation Institute (I shall be writing to them) but like some members of the Fire Authority, I don’t think it is credible.
  • I challenged the misleading assumptions on which the calculations about ‘savings’ of life are based – they failed to respond.
  • I asked them if they accepted the estimate, based on their own data, that 600,000 people would have increased risk due to slower response times – this would include everyone in the Seaton and Colyton area – again they failed to answer.
  • I asked why they said it wasn’t about ‘cuts’, when papers presented to the Fire Authority showed clearly that saving money is a key driver.

Although I got to raise some other points about Colyton, I was cut off by the chair and didn’t get a chance to come back in. I’ll be writing up a full objection (and a paper for when this comes to Scrutiny – as I have insisted – on 25th September) and will post this here.

Three things struck me even more forcefully, from this meeting and re-reading the papers in preparation for it:

  1. As with the hospital cuts, the bottom line here is asset-stripping. The sites represent over 80 per cent of the financial gains from the 8 proposed closures.
  2. Even more than with the hospital beds cuts, the ‘alternative’ ( in this case more ‘prevention’) is pathetically weakly developed. They’re selling off the family silver and not giving us any serious detail on what they’re offering instead. In all likelihood, they’ll pocket the gains and the prevention activity will barely materialise.
  3. Finally, they are worried about the high level of negative TV and press coverage – keep up the campaign!