Re­prieve for fire ser­vices

West Sussex Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

Plans to cut £400,000 from the West Sus­sex Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice bud­get have been dropped – but only for a year. The de­ci­sion to carry on fund­ing fire in­ter­ven­tion and pre­ven­tion ser­vices in 2019/20, as well as busi­ness re­silience ser­vices, was an­nounced dur­ing bud­get dis­cus­sions at County Hall, Chich­ester last week.

The pro­pos­als to cut the fund­ing had met with huge op­po­si­tion, be­ing branded ‘un­sus­tain­able­an­dun­safe’bythe Fire Bri­gades Union and caus­ing con­cern among mem­bers of the coun­cil’s own scru­tiny com­mit­tees.

Ar­eas at risk in­cluded the Safe Drive Stay Alive cour­ses for young peo­ple, the Fire­break train­ing pro­gramme, school ed­u­ca­tion vis­its and elec­tric blan­ket test­ing.

Speak­ing at a meet­ing of the cab­i­net on Tues­day (Jan­uary 29), leader Louise Gold­smith said: “I hope that peo­ple will feel com­fort­able that the pro­pos­als show that we have lis­tened and are pre­pared to take on board those com­ments while not af­fect­ing the bud­get in any way.”

Thechange­comest­woweeks af­ter­pro­pos­al­sto­cut£200kfrom the tech­ni­cal res­cue team were also dropped when the Home Of­fice an­nounced it would be stop­ping a £450k grant from April 2020.

With a £575k-shaped hole in its bud­get, the coun­cil has looked else­where for sav­ings. Rather than cut­ting fire ser­vice funds, it has rec­om­mended that £200k of un­der­spend from the 2018/19 com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive fund be used, as well as £300k of sur­plus from the busi­ness rates levy ac­count.

The pro­posed cuts were part of the at­tempt by West Sus­sex to save £23.9m in 2019/20. Mrs Gold­smith said she hoped the coun­cil would be able to find spon­sor­ship for some of the atrisk ser­vices. The 2019-2020 rev­enue bud­get will go be­fore the full coun­cil for ap­proval on Fe­bru­ary 15.

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