Yarmouth borough councillors vote to oppose county’s fire service cuts

Great Yarmouth Town Hall's Victorian clock is back in working order

Great Yarmouth Town Hall's Victorian clock is back in working order - Credit: Archant

In a moment of unity, borough councillors voted to oppose cuts to the fire and rescue service being proposed by the county council.

Michael Jeal, Labour councillor for Nelson Ward and a former firefighter moved a resolution to oppose cuts to the local fire and rescue service on Tuesday night winning cross party support.

Norfolk County Council will be told the borough council is united in opposing cuts to local firefighter crews and the loss of a fire engine.

Cllr Jeal said: 'I am the first to say with the fire cuts, try holding your breath for two and a half minutes. That is how long you have in a smoke-filled house.' He added that recent fires in Yarmouth and Gorleston had reminded the public of the important role firefighters have in saving lives, and from his experience these cuts would lead to lives being lost.

Cllr Charles Reynolds, chairman of the development control committee, said: 'We are all aware of the sort of growth there is going to be inside the borough through housing over the coming years.'

He added it was right and proper the infrastructure in the borough would meet the demands of a growing population as more houses are built.

The council will now write to MP Brandon Lewis to ask that central government continue to fund Norfolk's important rescue teams.

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Cllr Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group said it had been the first time in a long while that the council was in agreement, and welcomed that agreement over such an important issue.

A motion, which was passed unanimously, states: 'The county council's proposals if implemented would see daytime cover in Gorleston and Great Yarmouth reduced to two whole time crews and one retained crew and night time cover reduced to one whole time crew and one retained crew. Night time cover will in effect be cut in half.

'The loss of a whole time crew at night will inevitably lead to an increase in response times as retained crews take between three and seven times longer (up to 7 minutes 20 seconds longer) to dispatch than whole time crews.

'The motion reported the county authority has saved over £245m in the last three years and through further cuts to local government funding is faced with finding a further £111m in savings. It is because of this pressure on its budget that Norfolk County Council finds itself in the unenviable position of considering cuts to one of the most efficient fire and rescue services in England.

'This council recognises difficult decisions must be made as result of Westminster imposed cuts however this council resolves to write to the leader of Norfolk County Council to object to the proposed reduction in fire crews and the loss of a fire tender from the borough.

'That any reduction in service at our three fire stations of Martham, Gorleston and Great Yarmouth would lead to an increase in the risk to the lives of residents and visitors, that this is unacceptable and is opposed by this council.

'Furthermore it is noted that a one-off grant from Norfolk County Council and Defra funded a flood rescue capability in Norfolk, that in our 'hour of need' during the storm surge of December 2013 deployed 17 specialist teams and has recently been commended for work in flood rescue in northern England.

'This funding ends in 2017.

'This council resolves to write to Brandon Lewis MP to request that Norfolk's flood rescue capability is again supported through a grant from Government. Recognising the benefit and reassurance that such a capability brings to a community at risk of flooding.'