Fire service merger to be discussed in secret tomorrow

Posted On 01 Jun 2011 at 1:25 pm

The fire service for Brighton and Hove is taking a step closer to merging into one countywide organisation for Sussex.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Authority, which covers Brighton and Hove, is meeting tomorrow to decide whether to pursue a merger with West Sussex.

The two fire services signalled their intention in December to explore a merger or closer working ties.

Both are trying to find ways of saving money and believe that a merger would enable them to cut management and back office costs.

For example, there would be only one chief fire officer and fewer senior managers.

Their aim is also to preserve and improve their ability to tackle fires and deal with other key tasks, including the aftermath of flooding, chemical spills and road accidents.

The East Sussex authority said that the next stage in developing the business case was being completed.

And tomorrow the councillors who sit on the fire authority are due to hold a meeting behind closed doors to discuss the recommendations.

This in spite of a pledge that “East Sussex Fire Authority is committed to increasing transparency and openness with our residents”.

West Sussex County Council runs the service for the rest of the county.

Pete Bradbury, the cabinet member for public protection in West Sussex, will give his verdict on Friday 1 July – after the county council’s Community Services Select Committee has given its verdict.

The East Sussex authority said: “Subject to the outcomes of these decisions, the business case will be made public and a joint announcement will be made shortly afterwards.”

“If both organisations agree a merger appears to be the best way forward, a 12-week public consultation period would then take place before any final decisions are taken.

“Feedback from the consultation would be fully considered before a final decision is made.”

If the fire services are to merge, the formal decisions are expected to be taken by East Sussex Fire Authority and West Sussex County Council at their respective meetings in December.

If a merger is agreed, it would still be subject to government approval and would not take effect before Monday 1 April 2013.

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