Cuts to fire service could risk lives, firefighters say

Lowestoft on call fire fighters are campaigning against the proposed cuts to the Fire Service.

Lowestoft on call fire fighters are campaigning against the proposed cuts to the Fire Service. - Credit: Nick Butcher

A petition and online campaigns against proposed cuts to the fire service in Suffolk have been launched.

With Suffolk County Council aiming to save £1.3million from the fire service's £22million budget by 2017/18, a public consultation is running until February next year.

The proposals include closing Wrentham fire station, in Chapel Road, while Lowestoft South fire station would lose one on-call engine.

But keen to raise awareness of the proposed cuts, two Facebook sites have been set up – with thousands of people showing their support for the campagners by 'liking' the sites and calling for action.

And a petition on the change.org website has been launched by the Fire Brigades Union Suffolk members.

It is aiming to attract 3,500 signatures needed – as it calls for 'the full Suffolk County Council' members to vote on the fire cuts, 'not just the nine cabinet members.'

With more than 1,000 people having signed the petition already, Phil Johnston, secretary of the FBU Lowestoft branch, said: 'The petition is up and running and the social media campaign has been very positive. I would like to stress that this is potential reductions in fire crews for the public. To lose one fire engine from Lowestoft and the Wrentham fire station, the resilience and public safety will be affected.'

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He added: 'Lives and property are at risk.'

Mark Sanderson, deputy chief fire officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue, said: 'In Suffolk, we are lucky to have such a highly skilled and professional fire and rescue service that protects people through its response, protection and prevention work, helping make Suffolk safer.

'The proposals for the consultation offer us the best opportunity to continue to deliver this outstanding service to the residents of Suffolk and have been developed after taking into account various factors.'

'We are encouraging people to attend the public meetings that we have set up across the county so that their views can be taken into account; the Lowestoft meeting is due to take place on February 1, at 6,30pm, and this would be a good opportunity for people to make their views heard.'

Planned meetings:

As part of Suffolk County Council's ongoing public consultation looking into the future provision for Suffolk's fire service, a series of public meetings are being planned for the New Year.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will be hosting public meetings in early 2016 to enable people to learn more about what is being proposed and have their say.

Fire officers are encouraging people to attend the meetings across the county so that their views can be taken into account before the proposals are finalised and any decisions are made. The consultation closes on February 22, 2016.

With events planned in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Sudbury, two meetings will also be held in the Lowestoft area. These are on January 28, 2016 at Wrentham Village Hall, running from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, and on February 1 at the Riverside Centre in Lowestoft from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

To attend any of these events, email fireserviceredesign@suffolk.gov.uk confirming which meeting date and venue you wish to attend.

In addition to the meetings hosted by SFRS, officers and councillors have also been invited to attend a number of other town, parish and area meetings. Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for environment and public protection, Matthew Hicks, said: 'The council recognises the importance of our fire and rescue service and has, over recent years, done everything possible to protect it against reductions in grant funding from the Government.

'Without question, this is a challenging set of proposals. However, they have been shaped by fire officers following an assessment of the risk in Suffolk and the feedback received during a pre-consultation exercise held in the summer. I now encourage people to respond to this full consultation so we can have a wide a range of views to help inform our future decisions regarding the shape of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.'