Fire station cuts will 'leave our town exposed'

Friday 18th October 2019 6:15 am
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SERIOUS concerns about future fire service cover for Haslemere – particularly at night – were raised at Surrey County Council’s full council meeting on October 8.

Surrey leader Councillor Tim Oliver told the meeting the Making Surrey Safer plan, which means the loss of seven night-time pumps, and reliance on part-time, on-call staff overnight, will make Surrey Fire and Rescue Service “fit for the future”.

Mr Oliver spoke after Surrey Fire Brigades Union secretary Lee Belston had made a passionate speech to members and presented a petition signed by 13,048 people calling for the proposals to be scrapped.

Under the plans, the number of fire engines available at night will be reduced from 30 to 23 and changes will be made to how stations are crewed in Banstead, Camberley, Egham, Fordbridge, Guildford, Haslemere, Painshill, Walton and Woking.

This includes introducing day crew only at some stations and swapping whole-time firefighters for on-call cover at night at others.

Fire and council chiefs say the changes will allow staff to focus more on fire prevention, which will reduce the amount of risk.

Councillors voted to accept the recommendation by cabinet members to approve the Making Surrey Safer Plan, with 46 votes for, 11 against and five abstentions.

Using the question time slot, Councillor Nikki Barton had urged Surrey to reconsider proposed changes to Haslemere fire station.

She said: “Haslemere is a high-priority station because of its proximity to the Hindhead tunnel on the A3 and its distance from neighbouring stations.

“At present the fire service is struggling to maintain cover at night. This situation will be exacerbated by the cutting of a further seven appliances at night.

“The new plan slashes the night-time cover throughout the county, potentially leaving Haslemere exposed. It increases rather than reduces the risk to my constituents’ safety and fails to ensure the right resources will be in the right place at the right time to respond to residents’ needs in emergency.”

The county council responded: “Under these changes, fire and rescue cover will continue to be provided across Surrey on a 24/7 basis.

“Fire engines may come from neighbouring fire stations in some areas at night time, but these will still arrive within the service’s current response standard. In terms of the Waverley area specifically, the impact on response times is minimal and in fact improves at the weekend.”

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