Fire cuts still on the agenda despite row at council

Fire Cuts protest outside Endeavour House in Ipswich - but would a vote against the cuts at the coun

Fire Cuts protest outside Endeavour House in Ipswich - but would a vote against the cuts at the county council have made any difference? - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Cuts to Suffolk fire service are still firmly on the county council’s agenda after a bid to rule out a raft of service reductions was rejected by a tiny majority.

Councillors voted 36-35 to reject an opposition call to abandon cuts to the fire service which are currently being considered in a public consultation exercise.

The plan drawn up by the county council suggests closing Wrentham fire station in north Suffolk, and reducing the number of appliances in Ipswich, Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds, and Sudbury.

Liberal Democrat leader David Wood – a former firefighter – proposed the motion which was seconded by Labour leader Sandy Martin. It also won support from the UKIP and Green groups as well as both Independent councillors at the meeting.

Mr Wood said the most savage cuts were happening in Ipswich where Princes Street would be downgraded from a three-pump to a one-pump station.

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He said: “Have you not looked at what is happening in Ipswich and the development that has taken place and is still taking place?

“A high proportion is high-rise development which requires a specific attendance from the fire service.”

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During the debate Independent Long Melford councillor Richard Kemp said it made no sense replacing one of the two fire engines in Sudbury with a smaller all-terrain machine because back-up from Nayland was often not available.

“It makes more sense to leave two appliances in Sudbury and send this little machine to Nayland. They might even have enough people to operate a small machine there,” he said.

County Council leader Colin Noble said the results of the consultation over the future of the fire service were still being analysed and there was no point in making any decisions until those results had been published.

Cabinet member for public protection Matthew Hicks said: “We cannot support the motion out of respect for the people of Suffolk who have had their say in the consultation.”

He said it was important for the council to balance its books – and the fire service had to play its part in that.

The number of 999 calls across the country had fallen by 40% over the last 10 years, and Suffolk’s figures reflected that.

Before the debate members of the Fire Brigades Union had protested outside Endeavour House and a petition with more than 5,000 names was presented to the meeting calling for the final decision on the fire changes to be made by the full council, not the authority’s cabinet.

The results of the consultation are due to be published next month, and a final decision on proposed cuts to the fire service is due to be made by the cabinet in May.

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