A Labour MP and a Conservative MP have joined forces to oppose changes to East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, and Maria Caulfield, the Conservative MP for Lewes, are concerned about cuts and a loss in service.
These would affect two fire stations which provide cover for some of poorest parts of Brighton – areas represented by the MPs when they were members of Brighton and Hove City Council.
The two MPs have spelt out their concerns to all 18 councillors who sit as members of the East Sussex Fire Authority which agreed to consult the public about the proposed changes.
The MPs want the consultation to be halted, not least while firefighters take on other duties during the coronavirus crisis.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle said: “Firefighters have been asked to take on extra duties as part of our covid response so now is the wrong time to be trying to implement disruptive changes to the service.
“Authority members should support a moratorium until this crisis is over and we know what the final financial settlement with local government will be.”
Maria Caulfield said: “Now is not the right time to be consulting members of the public on wide-ranging changes to our local fire service when they are taking on extra duties to fight covid-19 and we have no idea what the post-pandemic future will bring for local government or the fire service.
“There is no urgency for this to be pushed ahead with. It can and should wait.”
Their letter said: “We are writing regarding the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service Integrated Risk Management Plan 2020-25 which is currently being consulted on across the county.
“After discussions with the chief fire officer, local firefighters and residents we have concluded that it is not the right time to proceed with such a major restructure of the local service.
“We are not satisfied with the urgency of this review and believe that while firefighters have taken on extra duties during the covid crisis that it is unfair them, as key workers, to be having these structure changes forced on them.
“We are also particularly concerned about the cuts and loss in service by 50 per cent capacity in Lewes and Newhaven which help support the east of Brighton, with regards to the move from full-time to ‘retained’ firefighting on the weekends.
“We are also concerned that the figures for demand are based on historic cases which have since be superseded by more recent, higher callout figures which are not being taken into consideration.
“No one knows what the future shape of local government, including fire and police services, will look like after this pandemic and so we think it is premature also to be making determinations that may need to change again in 12 months’ time.
“We are happy to continue the discussion about any changes in a cross-party way but believe that these changes should not be taking place now.
“As such we would call on you all to vote against the proposal and place a moratorium on any wholesale changes until we better understand the impact of covid on East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service as well as the wider community.”
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