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Fire service cuts put people at risk
Joy Taylor, Southampton Socialist Party
At a recent Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) Review consultation meeting firefighters and ex-firefighters in attendance were initially prevented from speaking.
This, despite the proposal being to cut 225 fire crew around the county under the dubious title of 'Planning for a Safer Hampshire.'
A member of the audience rightly argued that she wanted to hear the firefighters' view. After all they are in the best position to know what is necessary to carry out their job in a manner which will ensure the safety of the public, and also to minimise risk to their own safety.
When the discussion was finally allowed to open up questions were still avoided or not answered fully. It became evident that they had done no proper trials of their plans.
There were concerns about emergency cover arrangements, which would result in the possibility of two firefighters attending incidents in a 'first response' vehicle, which is much smaller than a traditional fire engine.
HFRS kept repeating that two firefighters could deal with 70% of fires, but brushed over the fact that the remaining 30% would be the most serious fires that involve casualties.
The meeting was only attended by around 30 people, and concern was immediately expressed by those present that about the lack of advertising and poor location.
The final straw for me was when HFRS were repeatedly asked if they would be putting these plans in place if they did not have budget cuts. Eventually, after much prevaricating, they admitted that they would not.
Clearly, given that response, they are not 'Planning for a Safer Hampshire' at all. They are simply responding to budget cuts, and potentially placing the people of Hampshire at greater risk.
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