I spent a couple of hours talking with firefighters at Topsham Fire Station on Saturday 31 August before my PC broke, hence this delayed blogpost!
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is currently consulting on a range of options to cut the service, all of which include station closures.
The cuts are being proposed as part of austerity measures. Each option is set to save the service millions in revenue and/or capital costs.
In the East Devon constituency this could mean the closure of Topsham and Budleigh Salterton Fire Stations and overnight cover being lost at Exmouth Fire Station.
The repeated message from worried firefighters was that response times would almost certainly be affected by the cuts, which could compromise public safety.
They also expressed concerns to me relating to the messages in the consultation document, some of which they regard as misleading, such as underplaying or not taking into account the important part Topsham Fire Station plays in supporting the fire service based in Exeter.
A large crowd gathered on 31 August to demonstrate their anger and worry about their fire station being put at risk.
The consultation sets out a range of options and people are urged to give their view on the options via an online link. However, having taken a look at the consultation response document I was very disappointed to see how complicated it is, which will undoubtedly put people off from responding. There doesn’t appear to be the freedom for people to give a view without being forced to say which option they support.
For most people, this will be none of the above!
It’s yet another local service that is being scaled back for a short-sighted narrow minded ideology which is set on shrinking the state.
And here’s the link to the petition against the planned closures – https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/don-t-cut-fire-services-in-devon-and-somerset?bucket&fbclid=IwAR0Pr1NzI3XK_31G_LJbmr57EdZViEAPn0TWdu-9ZyCLw6bj0CPcUY-PKEg
Yet there is surely hope, following the chancellor’s budget statement last week, which implied that austerity was over and he was reinvesting money in public services.
Removing my cynicism that this is all election flimflam, this would appear to be a good time to ask for the funding required in order to retain our vital fire service the way it is, so I have written to Mr Javid – letter below……
Dear Mr Javid
I was very pleased to see that you have announced the end of austerity this week in your spending review statement and that there now will be money available for public services after almost a decade of cuts.
I am drawing your attention to the concerns of East Devon firefighters and members of the public, who are very worried about a consultation that is currently ongoing which includes station closures in each option and/or overnight cover being lost.
In the East Devon constituency, this means we could lose Budleigh Salterton and Topsham Fire Stations. Topsham station also provides vital cover for Exeter.
We could also lose overnight cover at Exmouth fire station, which is the biggest town in Devon, with a population of over 30,000.
Each option in the (very complicated multi-faceted and many say, misleading) consultation will save the service millions of pounds in either capital and/or revenue costs to meet government funding cuts.
Firefighters have told me that these cuts will lead to response times being compromised and therefore, public safety, being put at risk.
I very much hope that in your forthcoming budget you will be able to reverse these cuts by returning the lost funds that austerity has removed from the service.
These cuts, as with all the other austerity measures over the past decade, are short-term, short-sighted and could cause real harm to people’s lives.
Now your government has made the pledge that austerity is over I very much hope you will be able to reinstate the funding that the local fire service needs to reverse their proposed raft of cuts.
Devon County Councillor – Otter Valley Ward
Independent Prospective Parliamentary Candidate – East Devon constituency