No chance of any more funding for fire service

5/4/14- Save East Sussex Fire Service public meeting, Hastings.  Des Pritchard SUS-140530-145230001
5/4/14- Save East Sussex Fire Service public meeting, Hastings. Des Pritchard SUS-140530-145230001

A LACK of Government funding for the fire service meant that frontline cuts were ‘inevitable’, according to the head of East Sussex Fire and Rescue.

The service has been consulting on a raft of money-saving proposals as it struggles to find £7.1m of savings from its £40m budget.

Among these were a controversial proposal to downgrade Battle Fire Station to retained status - resulting in the loss of nine wholetime firefighters.

Those against the cuts have demanded that ESFRS go back to Government to ask for more funding to protect vital services.

But Des Pritchard, chief fire officer for ESFRS, says it was made clear that no more funding will be available to the service.

Speaking to the Observer, he said: “I have been to (Fire Minister) Brandon Lewis and asked for more funding support and he made it absolutely clear there was no more funding for the fire service.”

And he said a possible change in Government following the 2015 General Election would not change the situation.

Mr Pritchard said: “Lyn Brown (shadow fire minister) made it clear to me if Labour was to win the next General Election, there would be no further funding for the fire service.”

Mr Pritchard said he believed merging with neighbouring West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was “the right thing to do”.

But it has previously been revealed that WSFRS was not in favour of the merger.

And, Mr Pritchard added, even merging the two services would not solve the funding problem.

He said: “I do not think you need both a chief officer in East Sussex and West Sussex.

“But East Sussex Fire Authority cannot merge if there’s not anyone to merge with.”

He added: “We cannot merge with Kent Fire and Rescue Service because they are working very closely with Essex Fire and Rescue Service.”

Mr Pritchard said he had responsibility for 24 fire stations in Brighton and Hove and across East Sussex.

He told the Observer that if all the cost-cutting proposals were adopted, the service would still have 24 stations.

A decision on the future of Battle Fire Station is due to be made at a Fire Authority meeting on Thursday (May 5).