East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is coming under increased pressure over its planned cuts which would see Uckfield lose one appliance and a number of full-time firefighters.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said more than 14,000 residents had signed a petition calling on members of the fire authority to reject the proposed cuts.
Details and analysis of the cuts and what they would mean to Uckfield can be found in these two stories, which we published when the consultation was launched.
Firefighters covering every station in East Sussex have written to Cllr Roy Galley, chair of the fire authority, to “spell out the severity of the cuts planned” and to call for them to be halted.
They say that they have “stepped forward” to help their community through the coronavirus pandemic by taking on new duties and that it “simply cannot be the case” that they are thanked with cuts to their jobs and emergency service provision.
The FBU said more than 1,200 residents had emailed Cllr Galley to say “following this crisis, we cannot go back to more cuts to the fire service. We cannot applaud our firefighters, and then viciously gut their service in the name of saving money”.
The FBU is calling on more East Sussex residents to join the protest.
It said firefighters in East Sussex and across the country had taken on huge new areas of work to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including driving ambulances; delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to NHS and care staff; and delivering medicines and food to vulnerable people.
But East Sussex fire authority had pushed ahead to consult the public on sweeping cuts to the fire service mid-pandemic, detailed in an Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) drawn up by Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker and senior managers before the coronavirus outbreak.
Eliot Parry, East Sussex firefighter and FBU brigade secretary, said:
“We warned the fire authority that these cuts were dangerous and now our community is crying out with one voice – these cuts will cost lives and must not go ahead.
“Across East Sussex and the country, we are all trying to pull together to get through this crisis, but the fire authority is exploiting the pandemic as a distraction to push through seriously damaging cuts to our fire service.
“To all East Sussex residents, as your firefighters, we are always here when you need us, including during this pandemic. But now we need your help.
“We need you to contact the fire authority and tell them that these cuts must not go ahead. Lives genuinely depend on it.”
FBU general secretary
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:
“Residents are applauding key workers each Thursday while their fire authority attempts to dismantle their fire and rescue service.
“It’s both dangerous and utterly tone deaf.
“It’s heartening to see so many residents speak out against these savage cuts.
“Our members across the country stand with their East Sussex colleagues. Working together, firefighters and residents can stop these unsafe plans.”