The Fire Brigades Union has passed a vote of no confidence in what members described as “dangerous” plans to cut frontline emergency cover.
The FBU’s East Sussex secretary Eliot Parry said that the decision had not been taken lightly but resulted from concerns about the safety of the public and firefighters.
Among the changes, those based at the three fire stations in Brighton and Hove faced a new crewing system with fewer firefighters, the union said.
But East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, which covers Brighton and Hove, said that its proposals were intended to provide a more flexible and efficient service.
The fire service added: “This includes moving resources to allow investment in preventing emergencies such as fires in homes – an area where the service is already seeing success.”
The proposals, known as Planning for a Safer Future, the “Integrated Risk Management Plan” for 2020 to 2025, are currently the subject of a public consultation.
More than 21,000 people have signed a petition to oppose the measures. To read or sign the petition, click here.
The FBU said: “At the full East Sussex Fire Brigades Union committee meeting held on Wednesday 3 June, the committee voted unanimously in a vote of no confidence in East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s Integrated Risk Management Plan proposals.
“The FBU Brigade Committee is made up of FBU reps from all fire stations across East Sussex.
“The committee represents all FBU members within East Sussex across all duty systems and all ranks.”
Mr Parry said: “The committee has not taken this decision lightly. The fact that East Sussex Fire Authority is continuing to proceed with its public consultation on these dangerous plans has left our members with little choice but to officially record their lack of confidence in the proposals.
“Firefighters know these plans are dangerous and will have a huge detrimental impact on both public and firefighter safety.
“Firefighters need to be able to respond quickly to emergencies and in sufficient numbers to allow them to deal with life-threatening emergencies.
“These plans will severely hinder their ability to protect the public and will result in the unnecessary loss of lives.”
The full wording unanimously supported by FBU members said: “We the frontline firefighters who proudly serve the people of East Sussex, Brighton and Hove believe the delays proposed within these plans will directly contribute to the unnecessary loss of life at incidents we attend in the future.
“Firefighters in East Sussex call for an immediate suspension and a full review of all of the proposals.”
The fire service said: “A public consultation is open into a number of proposed changes to East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service which aim to improve the service provided to our communities.
“We welcome constructive dialogue and feedback about the plans, however, are concerned about the amount of misinformation which has been promoted by some parties.
“We urge members of the public to read our full proposals on our website.
“In Planning for a Safer Future (IRMP 2020-25), we set out seven proposals centred on public and firefighter safety which aim to deliver our service in a more flexible and efficient way.
“This includes moving resources to allow investment in preventing emergencies such as fires in homes – an area where the service is already seeing success.
“The proposals also include investment in additional resources in Hastings and Eastbourne, investment in training, on-call firefighter contracts, more building safety advice to businesses and more prevention activity for the most vulnerable.
“Our evidence shows these proposals will improve emergency cover.
“Our consultation on these proposals takes place from Friday 24 April and closes on Friday 19 June.
“The findings will be presented to East Sussex Fire Authority in September.”
To read or respond to the consultation, click here.
The union said: “East Sussex Fire Authority’s decision to publicly consult on the proposed plans during the covid-19 pandemic has drawn criticism both locally and nationally.
“The FBU has formally written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson requesting a moratorium on cuts to fire and rescue services in England.
“Local Members of Parliament, town councils and over 20 000 members of the public across the political spectrum have publicly condemned both the timing of the consultation and also the proposals themselves.
“They have all voiced their opinions that the plans are unacceptable as they seek to reduce emergency frontline response to emergencies in East Sussex.
“There is clearly no support for these proposed cuts.
“The FBU remains committed to meaningful discussions with senior managers within East Sussex FRS to ensure frontline emergency response and public safety is protected.”