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Fire Brigades Union slam proposed Surrey cuts

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Published by Tom Cantoni at 6:00am 16th March 2019. (Updated at 12:00pm 18th March 2019)

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has slammed proposed further cuts to Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

In early March, Surrey County Council launched a consultation asking for views on reducing the number of fire engines available at night time in the county.

It followed last year's inspection from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, which highlighted that Surrey Fire and Rescue Service are not doing enough to protect people or prevent emergencies from happening.

Changes to night time services are being proposed in the Banstead, Camberley, Egham, Fordbridge, Guildford, Haslemere, Painshill, Walton and Woking areas.

Banstead, Egham and Painshill currently have night time cover, but new plans are proposing to take that away.

Meanwhile, night time cover will remain in Camberley, Fordbridge, Guildford and Woking, but will be reduced.

Here's what is being proposed:

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But the FBU has branded this idea as 'incomprehensible' with its Surrey secretary saying it would leave the public 'exposed' and 'short-changed'.

Lee Belsten said:

"The council’s claim that these cuts are ‘risk based’ is ludicrous. Slashing night-time cover leaves the public exposed when they are most at risk of fatality.

"These proposals offer no improvement in public safety and do nothing to address how firefighters are supposed to keep themselves safe.

"Surrey received a damning report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate last year and consistently fails to achieve its agreed response time.

"It is incomprehensible that the council plans to respond to this situation with further brutal cuts."

The FBU says Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has already had 131 firefighter positions slashed between 2010 and 2018, a 17% reduction.

Lee Belsten added:

"The residents of Surrey deserve better. The council have relentlessly cut life-saving public services, while increasing council tax year on year.

"The public are being short-changed; receiving a less effective, less efficient service, that costs more while leaving them at greater risk."

Surrey County Council's public consultation is running until 26 May 2019. You can have your say here.

Acting Chief Fire Officer for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, Steve Owen-Hughes believes they would still have the cover needed to keep the county safe at all hours, though.

He said:

"Our plan is all about bringing firefighters closer to the communities we serve to help prevent emergencies and keep people safe, especially the most vulnerable in our society.

"By keeping the same number of fire stations and fire engines as we have now but crewing some of them differently at night, when there is less call on us, we’ll be able to do more life-saving prevention work and staff training, to make sure our crews are ready to help when needed.

"This will help us make the best use of our resources – we’d still have the fire cover we need to keep Surrey safe during the day and night but we’d be able to step up our community safety work to prevent emergencies in the first place. And when we do need to respond, we want to do so as quickly as possible, so we’re taking steps such as reducing the time it takes between a call coming in and our firefighters leaving the station.

"We really want to hear your views on our proposals and would encourage you to take part in our consultation."

 

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