The Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service is currently consulting on proposals to close 8 rural fire stations. The County Council’s Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee decided on 25th June to place the station closures on the agenda for its meeting on 26th September, and to invite the Fire Service to attend and present their case.
I learnt today that the Service has refused the invitation to attend the Scrutiny Committee, which is held in public, webcast and offers an opportunity for public participation. Instead they are offering a ‘masterclass’ on the proposals for county councillors, in private, which is scheduled for 4th September.
As a member of the Committee and County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton, representing the town of Colyton where one of the threatened stations is located – together with surrounding densely rural parishes which rely on the prompt response of its firefighters – I am outraged by the refusal of the Fire Authority to face public scrutiny of its proposals and answer the objections of local communities and their elected representatives.
I have therefore asked Cllr Alistair Dewhirst, Chair of the Committee, to invite other interested parties (representatives of the threatened Devon fire stations and the Fire Brigades Union – Devon and Somerset) to present to the Committee instead, and for County officers to prepare a report to the committee on the proposals.
The Scrutiny Committee’s discussion of the proposals is the only opportunity which elected representatives will have to scrutinise them before the Fire Authority’s final decision which will be made on Bonfire Night, 5th November. (The Authority’s own meetings offer members of the public, including councillors, only the possibility to ask questions or present petitions, not to give their views directly.)
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”