Fire service cuts consultation branded 'inadequate' by Budleigh Salterton town council
PUBLISHED: 13:30 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:52 10 September 2019
Picture: Alex Walton Photography
The public consultation on cuts to the Devon and Somerset fire service has been described as 'flawed' with 'inadequate' information by Budleigh Salterton Town Council.
The plans will see the town's fire station closing, along with seven others across the two counties.
There are also proposals to cut the overall number of fire appliances in use and convert fully-manned stations into part-time operations.
The council held a special meeting on Monday, September 2, in which councillors agreed that the consultation document, Safer Together, did not make the extent of the cuts, or their potential impact, clear enough to the public.
In response the council has written to the fire service calling for the consultation to be cancelled 'until some of the inconsistencies and gaps in the information in the Safer Together document are rectified, and all the required information is available for all'.
At the meeting, councillor Penny Lewis said the proposals would amount to "paring the service back to the absolute minimum statutory duty", but this was not made clear in the consultation document.
She said the risk factors for Budleigh Salterton and the surrounding area were not detailed, and the proposals did not take into account the increased population during the holiday season.
She added that the plans to scale back resources across the whole of Devon and Somerset did not address the possibility of a major incident where a large number of appliances and firefighters were needed in the same place.
The council's letter to the fire service says: "The consultation process if flawed; there has not been adequate information available to the public, nor has the consultation involved local community representatives."
It describes the statistics supporting the proposals as 'inadequate', and says: "The use of incomplete historical figures to predict future need is unsound and a poor basis for robust decision making".
The letter criticises the limited number of paper copies of the consultation document, when many local residents do not use the internet, and says the drop-in sessions were 'poorly advertised and the majority held during the day, thus discounting workers from attending'.
It calls for 'discussion across the whole of East Devon and Exeter, with all statutory and community representatives involved'.
The public consultation runs until Sunday, September 22.
What are the options outlined in the consultation document?
Option 1 - Station closures at Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham and Woolacombe.
One appliance from Topsham will be relocated to Middlemoor.
Option 2 - Station closures and removal of third appliances - option 1 plus a move to remove four 'on call' fire engines, one from each station at Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay and Yeovil - currently they all have three fire engines.
Option 3 - Station closures, removal of third and second appliances - option 2 plus a move to remove four engines, one from each station in Crediton, Lynton, Martock and Totnes - each one currently has two fire engines.
Option 4 - Station closures, removal of third and second appliances and change of status to day crewing - option 3 plus changing the staffing at three stations (Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton) - they currently all staffed 24/7. It's proposed the station will be staffed in the day but at night there will only be 'on call' staff.
Option 5 - Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing and to on-call at night only - option 4 and a number of stations have two engines - it is proposed that the first fire engine will be crewed 24/7 with 'on call' staff but the second fire engine is crewed at night. (This includes Brixham, Chard, Dartmouth, Frome, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton and Wellington).
Option 6 - Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing, on-call at night only and introduction of day crewed roving appliances. Option 5, plus proposals that six day-crewed fire engines (with trained firefighters on the fire engine) are introduced which will be deployed in areas of forecasted high risk and/or where gaps in 'on call' cover is presented.
Option 7 - A mix of the above