Cross-party call to keep Suffolk fire appliances and crews beaten by one vote

Bury firefighters with the petition. ANL-160216-134233009
Bury firefighters with the petition. ANL-160216-134233009
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A fire fighter has accused Suffolk County Council of putting the public at risk after a call for plans to axe appliances to be shelved was defeated by only one vote.

A petition calling for the cuts to be dropped, signed by more than 5,000 people, was presented to a full meeting of the county council yesterday and a cross-party motion for appliances and crews facing the axe at Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Lowestoft, Sudbury and Wrentham to be kept was debated.

The motion, proposed by Liberal Democrat leader David Wood, a former firefighter, and seconded by Labour leader Sandy Martin was defeated by only 36 votes to 35. UKIP, Green and independent councillors had also backed the motion.

After the vote Bury St Edmunds Firefighter Steve Collins, said “The County’s Fire crews are already spread thin. This doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t make people safer.

“I really think that these cuts put the public at risk, as it does fire crews.”

In the full council meeting, Cllr Wood drew attention to the number of high rise buildings being put up in Ipswich, which would lose three appliances and associated firefighters.

Cllr Martin said: “The Fire Service is one of the best examples we have of the public sector being the only way to provide the service people need.

“If your house has not fallen down after 20 years do you decide to stop bothering to insure it on the grounds that it’s been fine for 20 years? Of course you don’t. And the people of Suffolk will regard a similar approach to the Fire Service as a monstrously risky false economy.”

But county council leader Colin Noble said they could not make decisions on the cuts until the results of a recent public consultation were analysed and published.

Cllr Matthew Hicks, Cabinet member for public protection, said: “We cannot support the motion out of respect for the people of Suffolk who have had their say in the consultation.”

He added that the fire services had to play its part in helping to meet the budget cuts the county faces.

The fire service budget is to be cut by £1.34 million by April 2018 to cope with a reduction in the county council’s government funding.