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Slashing night cover won't cost lives says Surrey fire chief

Surrey Fire Steven Owen-Hughes

Published by the Eagle Radio News Team at 6:00am 24th May 2019.

Surrey's chief firefighter claims plans which will reduce night time fire cover across the county will actually save lives.

Over 11,000 people have signed a petition calling for the proposals to be scrapped over fears they will reduce safety.

But Chief Fire Officer for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service Steven Owen-Hughes says the changes will instead free up resources and allow them to work on preventing fires happening in the first place.

He said:

“We’ve had six fire deaths during this year and they’re all tragedies and they’re all preventable and they all happened to people who were vulnerable.

“We’ve got to all those incidents with our response times and the outcome for those people, those tragic outcomes have not changed and that’s the piece we need to concentrate on.

“We’re not cutting that recourse, we’re shifting it from the night time – where it’s not busy, where it’s latent quite often – into the daytime where it can make real impact and can change life outcomes.”

The 'Making Surrey Safer' plan follows an inspection last year which highlighted that Surrey Fire and Rescue Service was not doing enough to protect people or prevent emergencies from happening.

It proposes to combat this by putting more money into fire prevention education in the community through the community safety service, with firefighters going into schools, colleges, workplaces, homes and support groups to help people with “lifelong” safety.

But the changes would also mean taking away night cover in Banstead, Egham and Painshill, meanwhile reducing cover in Camberley, Fordbridge, Guildford and Woking.

Surrey Fire Map
The Service says they studied over five years of data before drawing up the plans.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has slammed the proposals, branding them 'incomprehensible'.

Its Surrey secretary, Lee Belsten, said:

"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."

Last month Eagle Radio spoke to an anonymous Surrey firefighter who claimed that the planned cuts could result in him, or one of his colleagues, paying with their life.

He said he would consider bringing his 25 years of service to an end if they went ahead.

The consultation closes on Sunday (May 26) and you can have your say here.

Meanwhile the petition calling for the plans to be scrapped can be found here.

Full details on the Making Surrey Safer plan can be seen on the Surrey County Council website.

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