Sudbury: Fire service merger document criticised

Firefighters at Sudbury Fire Station with MP Tim Yeo on a visit to the station

Firefighters at Sudbury Fire Station with MP Tim Yeo on a visit to the station

A DOCUMENT created as part of a consultation process over plans to merge Suffolk and Cambridgeshire fire and rescue services has been slammed as “insufficient and confusing” by town councillors.

Members attending a Sudbury council meeting on Tuesday voted not to support a merger, and described the questionnaire asking for stakeholders’ views as a “paper only exercise”.

Last night Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service deputy chief fire officer, Mark Hardingham, defended the merger proposal and the consultation process.

But Sudbury councillor Ian Pointon said the county council was simply “going through the motions” with the stakeholder consultation.

His colleague Nigel Bennett added: “I am not against collaboration where services can be shared, but on the information provided in this document, I don’t see how we could support a merger because there is insufficient detail for us to judge where savings could be made.”

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Another council member, Oliver Forder, described the document as “pathetic” adding: “It doesn’t give an idea of what the current costs are and it looks as if they are plucking numbers out of nowhere to justify something they don’t even understand themselves.”

The mayor Jack Owen said while he recognised the need to provide a more efficient service and improve public safety, he viewed the merger as a “purely financial exercise”. He said: “If they were able to improve the facilities and services that they provide as a consequence of the proposal they are putting before us, then I could understand it.”

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Deputy chief fire officer, Mr Hardingham said he refuted any suggestion that the consultation was just a paper exercise and that the town council’s views would not be listened to.

“This is a public consultation about the principle of working more closely, or even merging, with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue in order to save money and protect frontline services,” he said.

“We are doing it because we want to hear what people think about the proposals. Part of the consultation has involved officers and councillors going out into communities to meet people and talk about the proposals – we are doing this in Sudbury this week.”

Anyone who wants to give their views on the merger can attend a drop-in session at Sudbury Library on Market Hill, between 9am and 1pm today.

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