West Somerset Branch Labour Party oppose the proposed cuts to the Somerset and Devon Fire Service. The changes are being proposed by the Fire Service because the number of fires have reduced due to prevention work they have carried out and changes in habits such as less smoking. Six proposals of increasing severity are made in the consultation document here starting with the closure of eight fire stations, including Porlock , and a seventh option being a mix and match possibility of the previous six.
Peter Murphy, Vice Chair West Somerset Labour Party commented “A letter from Steve Griffiths of Watchet in last week’s Free Press correctly identifies the climate of austerity supported by Boris Johnson and Ian Liddell Grainger for bringing forward cost saving proposals by the fire service in Devon and Somerset. Local communities will rightly fear a reduction in protection and in their own ability to crew engines and contribute to their own protection from closures of stations such as Porlock.The Fire Service’s Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) states “Stations that are under threat of closure are in close proximity to another neighbouring fire station.” This is untrue as their own data estimates a response time to Porlock from Minehead of an additional 16 minutes, from Lynton of 22 minutes. This is hardly safe cover since these estimates are unrealistic given the road network.”
Back to Basic
Pete continued “Medical co-responding, although seen as a desirable service, is not a statutory duty for the Fire Service” says the EIA. So its back to a basic service – medical co-responding should be seen as vital in reducing medical response times in our rural area where ambulance cover is thin. Porlock’s co-responding team has attended more than once a week over the last 5 years and is valued by all who receive help in their hour of need. The already high numbers of elderly people in Porlock is expected to nearly double in the next ten years. “Those aged 80 and over have a higher fire-related fatality rate, accounting for 5 per cent of the population but 20 per cent of all fire-related fatalities in 2016/17” says the Fire Service EIA. The existence of Porlock fire station provides reassurance for the community and should not close says the West Somerset Labour Party. One of the options proposed is a strategy of crewed roving fire engines which it is claimed will reduce traffic casualties. This suggests more resources are needed for the service and I would support higher taxation to provide them. Austerity has seen cuts to public services like the Police and council services such as social care, libraries and education – it is time to start reinvesting in these services to prevent further decline in the services which we all depend on and for the more vulnerable in our society, their need is greater.”
Maureen Smith, Chair West Somerset Labour Party , said,” It is shocking that climate change is not one of the factors taken in to account by the Fire Service when making it’s recommendations. West Somerset and especially Porlock, are highly vulnerable to flooding from rising sea levels and Exmoor National Park will be at risk from increasing wildfires as climate change advances. Most local authorities are now including climate change in their policy making and public services should be doing the same. It is not on to claim that some of these functions are not statutory as there is no other service available in critical situations , especially in remote areas. We support the the Fire Brigade Union and local residents in their demand to retain these essential services, which will lost forever if not prevented now.”
The Fire Brigade Union has a petition people can sign here
Drop in sessions are being run and are listed in the document. Minehead is scheduled for August 23rd at the Library from 11 to 3 and Bridgwater Library on 27th August from 12 to 4 pm.
The consultation closes on 20th September.