“Massive concern” about plans to cut Crawley fire staff and engine

Gavin Watts, West Sussex Fire & Rescue SUS-140613-151310001
Gavin Watts, West Sussex Fire & Rescue SUS-140613-151310001

Plans to remove one fire engine and 10 retained firefighters from Crawley have caused “massive concern”.

The proposals – part of an attempt to cut £1.6million from the West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service budget – were discussed at a meeting of the East Crawley County Local Committee on Thursday (June 12).

Assistant chief fire officer, Gavin Watts, presented the draft proposals to the meeting and explained the intention was to remove Crawley’s third engine and scrap 10 of the retained firefighters.

He told the meeting the engine had been used 58 times in the past year compared to 659 times for the first engine and 1,233 times for the third.

But he admitted it would have been used more if a full crew of retained firefighter had been available.

He said: “We find it quite difficult to keep the number of retained firefighters going.”

The proposed changes to the location of staff and engines across the county include moving one engine from Horsham to Littlehampton and scrapping the second engines at Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington.

Answering concerns about how the changes would affect coverage, Mr Watts said: “We wouldn’t propose anything we didn’t think we could stand behind.

“We have trends so we know demand for our services increase during the day.

“We have rush-hour peaks when people burn the toast, crash the car or set off the office alarm by mistake.”

But Gareth Evans, a firefighter with 16 years’ service at Crawley, said the changes caused him “massive concern”.

Questioning the fire service coverage which would be available throughout the day and night should the changes go ahead, he added: “I don’t subscribe to trends because I believe a life is a life whenever we are needed.

“I think every person in Crawley and every person in West Sussex should be able to rely on the same cover from us that we would give at any time of the day.”

The proposals have gone out to public consultation, which will end on August 23. Call 01243 753706 for details or log on to www.westsussex.gov.uk