Such good timing: “Decision on whether fire stations will be axed delayed until just before Christmas”

“Devon residents [and firefighters Owl adds] could get an unwanted early Christmas present in the form of cuts to their fire service.

The Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has been consulting with the public on its Safer Together programme, which looks at how fire stations, engines and crews can be best deployed for the future needs of the two counties.

Among the proposed changes include Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham, and Woolacombe fire stations closing.

A decision on which savings proposals would be taken forward and implemented was originally due to be taken by the fire authority in early-November.

The fire service confirmed that around 3,300 surveys had been completed during the 12-week consultation window, and it also received 700 written submissions and five petitions on the subject.

The responses are now being independently analysed by the Swansea-based firm Opinion Research Services, with formal proposals coming to the fire authority on December 18, rather than November 8 as originally hoped. ….”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/decision-whether-fire-stations-axed-3410173

DCC Tories block discussion of fire station closures

From the blog of DCC East Devon Alliance councillor Martin Shaw:

“Yesterday I tried to propose a motion to Devon County Council to halt the fire station closures. The grainy photo (on his blog) taken from the webcast shows the Conservatives voting as a block to stop it even being discussed. They wanted to refer my motion to the Cabinet who would amend it and bring it back to the Council in December. By then, the Fire Authority – chaired by Colyton’s former county councillor, Sarah Randall-Johnson – will have decided on its proposals at a meeting on 8th November.

Following this disgraceful episode, there can be little doubt that Tory councillors on the fire authority are preparing to vote through the fire station closures. Local people need to increase pressure on all the individual members of the Authority, change their minds. …”

This is the moment the Conservatives voted to stop Devon County Council even discussing fire station closures – you have been warned, they are preparing to vote them through at the Fire Authority

“Devon and Somerset fire service ‘scraps’ £630k IT project”

burning money cartoon

“A cash-strapped fire service has scrapped an IT project that cost £631,000 but was branded “ill-conceived and overly complicated” by a union.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said it had to save £8.4m in the next three years and has planned to close eight fire stations.

The system was used to manage staff training needs and bosses said it was good value but no system was perfect.
But the Fire Brigades Union said it was a “waste of time and money”.

James Leslie, from the union, said the contract should never have been signed off and the money should have been used more wisely.

He said the programme was difficult to use, “never really took off and had been officially scrapped” and replaced with one that was “user-friendly”.

Mr Leslie said part of the programme was never released and as a result training went unrecorded and staff were struggling to find availability on courses.

However, the fire service disputed these claims.

The service said the programme was operational from 2016 until earlier this year but “due to a number of factors” it ended and a new system was developed.

Alex Hanson, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, said the project was “fundamental” in supporting firefighter training.
“No system is completely perfect,” he said. …

… In June, the fire service said it wanted to bring an outdated service into the 21st Century and announced the planned closure of eight stations – seven in Devon and one in Somerset.

The service said it had saved £12.2m over the past five years but still had to “make significant financial savings” because of reduced funding and rising costs.

However, the Home Office said the authority would have £75.6m to spend in 2019-2020 – an increase of £1.9m compared with 2018-2019.

Mr Hanson added the £631,000 was “one-off capital funding to develop a vital system for staff” and could not have been used for wages or savings.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-49593612

EDA DCC Councillor Martin Shaw on fire service cuts

From his blog:

Yesterday I attended the private ‘masterclass’ for county councillors with Chief officers Ian Howell and Pete Bond – arranged instead of the public Scrutiny hearing which the Fire Service had refused to attend.

  • I protested about the over-complicated design of the consultation and the way it has closed off opportunities for the public to express views about particular stations – they said it was signed off by the Consultation Institute (I shall be writing to them) but like some members of the Fire Authority, I don’t think it is credible.
  • I challenged the misleading assumptions on which the calculations about ‘savings’ of life are based – they failed to respond.
  • I asked them if they accepted the estimate, based on their own data, that 600,000 people would have increased risk due to slower response times – this would include everyone in the Seaton and Colyton area – again they failed to answer.
  • I asked why they said it wasn’t about ‘cuts’, when papers presented to the Fire Authority showed clearly that saving money is a key driver.

Although I got to raise some other points about Colyton, I was cut off by the chair and didn’t get a chance to come back in. I’ll be writing up a full objection (and a paper for when this comes to Scrutiny – as I have insisted – on 25th September) and will post this here.

“Three things struck me even more forcefully, from this meeting and re-reading the papers in preparation for it:

  1. As with the hospital cuts, the bottom line here is asset-stripping. The sites represent over 80 per cent of the financial gains from the 8 proposed closures.
  2. Even more than with the hospital beds cuts, the ‘alternative’ ( in this case more ‘prevention’) is pathetically weakly developed. They’re selling off the family silver and not giving us any serious detail on what they’re offering instead. In all likelihood, they’ll pocket the gains and the prevention activity will barely materialise.
  3. Finally, they are worried about the high level of negative TV and press coverage – keep up the campaign!

Fire Service chiefs fail to answer questions at Devon County Council private briefing – but they are worried about the level of opposition

Senior Fire officers refuse to appear at DCC Scrutiny Committee -EDA DCC Councillor Shaw suggests alternative meeting

PRESS RELEASE

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.)

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”