Following concerning reports that the Fire Authority were considering downgrading local fire services, last night (Monday 18th September) at Full Council, Rother District Councillors passed a motion from Labour Councillor Mark Legg that set out Rother’s opposition to any reduction in crew, vehicles or operating hours from the local fire services.

Cllr Legg started the debate, telling Council, “Let us work together to ensure that adequate resources and funding are allocated to our fire and rescue services to protect our fellow citizens and property effectively.”

The motion saw passionate speeches made by Councillors from across the Rother Alliance coalition, including Labour Cllrs Creaser, McGurk, Bayliss and Coleman who stood strong in the face of opposition from the Conservative Group.

Cllr Creaser, from Rye & Winchelsea, spoke about cuts to the fire service locally, “In Rye, we used to have two fire vehicles. Now we have one.”

Fellow Rye and Winchelsea Councillor, Cllr McGurk, assuredly batted away Conservative criticism, affirming the very real risk that local fire services face, “I’d like to quote from a Sussex World article… ‘Proposals from East Sussex Fire and Rescue to turn the Ridge into a day crewed station’… exactly the issues we’re talking about.”

Cllr Bayliss, Labour Group Leader revealed to Council, “a report to the Fire Authority last week revealed the scale of [what is] required, to quote: ‘efficiencies alone will not be sufficient.’”

Deputy Group Leader, Cllr Coleman commented, “we’ve been here before.” Reminding Councillors of the £11.2m of savings the Fire Authority has already made since 2010.

During the debate, various Conservative Councillors tried to downplay the risk to fire services, denying that the Fire Authority were even considering any changes. This dismissive tone was met with visible disapproval from fire service personnel in the public gallery, as well as Helena Dollimore, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Hastings and Rye who has been campaigning to protect local fire services.

In total disarray, the Conservatives could not even agree amongst themselves, with former Fire Authority member, Cllr John Barnes rebutting his colleagues who rubbished the motion, claiming he too shared the concerns and that the option to downgrade services further was definitely on the table, but that the motion should be amended, something that would have weakened the strength of the motion. This amendment was voted down and the Council passed Cllr Legg’s original motion with support from councillors of all political groups apart from the Conservatives, who abstained en masse.

Labour’s County Council representative for the East Sussex Fire Authority, Cllr Phil Scott said of the meeting, “I welcome the successful motion put forward by Labour Colleagues at Rother District Council’s Full Council last evening. Our Professional Firefighters continue to be asked to do more for less and with less. Firefighters continue to deal with House Fires and Road Traffic Incidents on a daily basis but are also dealing more and more with Wildfires and Climate Change issues such as Major Floodings. The reduction to Budgets is one that the Government needs to respond to and to look to ensure that all Fire & Rescue Services across the Country are adequately funded to meet the future demands that the Climate Change Challenges will produce.”

Going forward, it will be a priority for Labour Councillors and for local activists to ensure the actions of the motion are followed through and to encourage the wider public to get behind Labour’s local campaigns to protect public services and to elect passionate local campaigners like Helena Dollimore into Westminster.

 Cllr Sam Colman, Leo Cacciatore (Fire Fighter), Cllr Christine Bayliss, Cllr Simon McGurk, Cllr Cheryl Creaser, Cllr Mark Legg, Helena Dollimore (Hastings & Rye Labour Parliamentary Candidate), Cllr Gareth Delany
Cllr Sam Colman, Leo Cacciatore (Fire Fighter), Cllr Christine Bayliss, Cllr Simon McGurk, Cllr Cheryl Creaser, Cllr Mark Legg, Helena Dollimore (Hastings & Rye Labour Parliamentary Candidate), Cllr Gareth Delany
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