Uckfield watch manager speaks out about fire service cuts

Uckfield Fire Station watch manager Ian Ritchie speaks out here about cuts which will hit East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in the New Year. He describes them as ‘frightening’.fire_modern_engine

Mr Ritchie writes: Uckfield Fire Station will lose two firefighter posts in the New Year as East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service pushes ahead with cuts to front line operational crews.

Ten posts throughout the service will go on January 1 and, despite the service currently failing to meet some of its own attendance times to life threatening incidents, a new duty system at ‘Day Crewed’ fire stations comes into force as the New Year begins which can only delay the arrival of fire appliances still further.

Two full-time firefighter posts will be cut from stations in Uckfield, Crowborough, Lewes, Newhaven and Bexhill. This will result in fire appliances being put ‘on call’ for longer. Attendance times during these periods will be increased by at least five minutes while on-call firefighters attend the station to crew fire appliances.

Uckfield News reported on this issue back in February and the original story can be seen at Concern about possible cuts at fire stations. The concern has now become a reality as ESFRS attempts to make savings of £7.1 million from its budget due to cuts in Government funding.

Representatives from the five affected stations have been working with senior management to implement a new duty system and have succeeded in reducing the original planned cuts of three posts per station to two.

However, the group’s recommendation of one post cut per station, which, with a revised duty system, would have maintained the current rural attendance times, was rejected by senior officers and fire authority members.

The attendance time targets are set by the East Sussex Fire Authority members who are advised by the service’s corporate management team of senior officers and are for life threatening incidents.

The current agreed times for Life Threatening Incidents are;

ESFRS Attendance targets

Results 2012/13

Results 2013/14

Results 2014/15

Half year Apr-Sept

1st appliance arrival within 8 minutes for 60% of calls.

75%

72%

68%

1st appliance arrival within 13 minutes for 90% of calls.

95%

94%

94%

2nd appliance arrival within 8 minutes for 50% of calls.

58%

55%

46%

2nd appliance arrival within 13 minutes for 80% of calls.

85%

84%

81%

1st appliance arrival within 20 minutes for 95% of calls.

99%

99%

99%

8 firefighters in attendance within 8 minutes for 50% of calls.

58%

55%

46%

8 firefighters in attendance within 13 minutes for 80% of calls.

85%

85%

81%

 

A report of the latest performance results is available at ESFA Scrutiny Panel 2nd Qtr 2014/15 (Appendix A of document)

These targets are in fact, a countywide average based upon the perceived risk as identified by an ‘Integrated Risk Management Plan’ and do not necessarily reflect the level of service that individual communities will receive.

When broken down by borough the actual attendance times for the rural areas of the county fall far below the ‘average’ target.

This has always been the case and given that the majority of the population live in three large conurbations along the south coast, is no doubt right.

However, when considering the current poor attendance times for the rural areas of the county against the service targets together with ‘Phase 3’ money saving proposals, fire and rescue cover across Wealden in particular could be decimated.

A proposal to ‘consider the future’ of the On-Call fire stations at Forest Row, Mayfield and Herstmonceux, while ‘investigating the impact’ of upgrading Uckfield and downgrading Crowborough to On-Call status (all Wealden borough stations) is nothing less than frightening, especially when considering that 36% of ‘Killed or Seriously Injured’ road traffic incidents in the county occur on Wealden’s roads and increased year on year through 2011–2013.

The overriding concern is that while the fire authority claim to be providing a level of service to our communities, the organisation’s own figures show that standard to be in decline prior to the removal of appliances and changes to duty systems which can only extend attendance times still further thus increasing the level of risk to both the public and firefighters alike.

Full details of all proposals can be seen at ESFRS Changing the Service which was published prior the public consultation held during 2014. Unfortunately, the consultation only concerned changes and cuts to the service in Brighton & Hove and Hastings. The cuts that come into force on January 1 however, were agreed without public consultation.

See also:

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