The decision has been made as part of a bid to slash £7.1 million from the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service budget.
Uckfield watch manager Ian Ritchie, who provides regular reports for UckfieldNews.com on fire service activity in this area, said the decision would mean that the five stations would have ‘insufficient personnel’ to operate their current duty system.
The new system would mean that wholetime crews would be on station, and providing an immediate response, for less time. This would result in extended attendance times to incidents at certain times of day when those in need of the service would have to wait at least five minutes longer while on-call firefighters attend the fire station.
Mr Ritchie said an option, favoured by a working party, to cut just one post from each station had been discarded by senior managers because it did not offer ‘adequate savings’.
He said: “Personnel at every fire station want to deliver the best possible service to the communities they serve. Unfortunately, partly due to both the geographic and demographic make-up of the rural districts (Wealden, Lewes and Rother), these areas already receive a level of service delivery far below the countywide targets set by the combined fire authority.
“These cuts can only extend attendance times across large areas of the county as the Government’s austerity measures continue to impact upon local services.”
Mr Ritchie continued: “The decision to make cuts at these stations was made by fire authority members (county councillors) under Phase 1 of their three-phase savings plan and without public consultation.
“Bizarrely, Phase 3 of the plan considers improving the standards of service delivery from Uckfield and Lewes in the future by slashing cover still further across Wealden, by reducing Crowbrough to part-time status and closing three part-time village fire stations.”
Mr Ritchie said work would now be undertaken to formalise the new duty system in an effort to minimise the impact of the changes on public safety and to introduce the new system to operate from January 1, 2015.
Incidents attended by Uckfield firefighters so far this month include:
Thursday, May 1: An Uckfield crew covered the Crowborough area at 8.10am while their crews dealt with a serious incident at an electrical sub-station following damage by suspected metal thieves.
Saturday, May 3: An accident at Piltdown was attended by a strike contingency crew at 4pm. Two cars collided and a fire in the engine compartment was extinguished with a hose-reel.
At 8.45pm the same crew attended a house in The Drive in Uckfield following a fire in a microwave oven.
Monday, May 5: A fire in a skip was extinguished in Framfield Road at 11.5pm.
Thursday, May 8: Crews from Barcombe, Uckfield and Lewes were sent to a ‘persons reported’ call in Barcombe at 4.55pm. Thankfully the incident was due to no more than an overcooked dinner.
Sunday, May 11: High winds brought down a high voltage electricity cable in Piltdown at 9.50am with a huge ‘flash and a bang’. A crew from Uckfield attended but left the incident with the Police who closed the A272 after UK Power network had been called.
Wednesday, April 14: One crew attended a flooding call to a coffee shop in the High Street at 1.45pm where they isolated a leak to prevent any further damage.
Uckfield crews have also attended calls to fire alarms sounding in Uckfield and Buxted.
Home safety visits, designed to raise awareness of safety matters in the home, are always available across the local communities. These visits include the fitting of free smoke alarms where required and are undertaken by firefighters from your local fire station.
For free home safety advice ring 0800 177 7069 or visit the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service website.
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