Fire service merger put on hold

Posted On 04 Nov 2011 at 7:49 pm

The merger of the fire service covering Brighton and Hove with a neighbouring service has been put on hold.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, which covers the city, and the neighbouring West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service are keen to amalgamate.

But a government funding review has created uncertainty, leading the two fire services to pause their plans for the time being.

The news comes after both fire services said that the vast majority of people who responded to a consultation agreed with the merger proposal.

Six hundred people responded to the consultation with one politician in Brighton and Hove saying that it was hard to find anyone who opposed it.

All the main parties appear to accept that a merger would be the best way to safeguard jobs and fire stations.

The politician said: “If jobs were threatened or if we were going to lose a fire station, then you’d expect some noise from the Fire Brigades Union for starters – and probably the public too.

“But look at what’s happening with the rundown and closure of Hove Police Station. To be honest we’ve barely heard a peep about it.

“There haven’t been any protests and only a few people have really had much to say about it.

“It’s the same with this merger. No one’s really bothered.

“I’d be amazed if the Treasury does something daft at this stage. They may not save much if the two services merge, but the Treasury will definitely want the saving to be made, thank you very much.”

The hold up has been caused by civil servants carrying out the “local government resource review”.

The review is being carried out by the Department for Communities and Local Government in conjunction with the Treasury.

The government is due to give its verdict early in the new year.

Only then do the fire service chiefs believe that they will have enough financial information to be sure of the benefits of a merger.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue said that work would still continue on a single control room to serve the entire county of Sussex.

Plans for a regional control room were shelved last December. The national project wasted £470 million.

The consultation about the proposed merger found that 91 per cent of people in West Sussex were in favour. West Sussex County Council runs the fire service there.

In East Sussex and Brighton and Hove the proposed merger was backed by 73 per cent of respondents.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Authority, which runs the fire service in the county and in Brighton and Hove, expects the proposed merger to save £3.8 million over the coming four years.

The savings would come from having fewer senior officers and by sharing support staff working in, for example, accounts or human resources.

At one consultation meeting – in Brighton – just one person turned up to learn about the proposals.

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