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Spelthorne residents demand fire cuts are stopped
Paul Couchman, secretary, Save Our Services in Surrey
There was standing room only at the packed public meeting last wednesday at Staines Community Centre. Nearly 50 people including residents, firefighters and a few local councillors came together to say unanimously: "We want to keep our two fire stations in Spelthorne". This was the follow-up meeting to the hugely successful march just before Christmas.
The local Conservatives were conspicuous by their absence - perhaps because the three Tory county councillors for Spelthorne who had attended the Select Committee had voted for the cuts. The meeting felt betrayed by those who had declared themselves opposed to these cuts only weeks earlier. One county councillor who did attend and who voted against the cuts was Robert Evans (Labour, Stanwell and Stanwell Moor).
There was a lot of discussion about the new 'Option 5' (one station with one full time and one on-call appliance) and the firefighters present explained how this would work (or not) in practice.
For the on-call proposal to work, the fire service would have to be able to recruit at least 18 people who live/work within five minutes of the station and who would be fit, capable and willing to do this job.
There was unanimous feeling that this proposal is actually just a way of getting the council's original proposal (Option 4) through the back door - ie a new station is built, our two stations are closed, two appliances are based at the new station but only one is operational because they can't recruit enough on-call firefighters for the second one which is then withdrawn.
Save Our Services in Surrey has called for a lobby of the Cabinet meeting which will make the final decision on 4th February. We are supported by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and all the major local trade unions, by the two county councillors who have opposed the plan, by a number of Spelthorne borough councillors and by the 11 residents' associations who have argued the case for retaining current fire safety levels.
The council's own consultation had 1,200 responses (including two petitions) which showed that 92% of residents and businesses opposed the cuts. The Save Our Services in Surrey petition has over 1,200 signatures on its own and we will be presenting this at the Cabinet meeting. Richard Jones, secretary of Surrey FBU, will have three minutes at the meeting to speak to the Cabinet on behalf of SOSiS. We also hope to have the FBU's fire engine with us on the day.
The fight is not over yet. We do not accept the closure of the two stations. If there is a new option (5) there should be a further consultation.
Lobby the County Council Cabinet meeting
12pm - 2pm, Tuesday 4th February
Outside County Hall, Penrhyn Road, Kingston KT1 2DN
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 27 January 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.