Battle Fire Station meeting - A political ‘hijack’ - and where was Greg?

MONDAY night’s meeting threatened to turn into a political row, after a campaigner accused Labour members of ‘hijacking’ the event.

Two of the party’s representatives on the Fire Authority - Cllr Phil Scott and Cllr Michael Wincott - attended the event, while Labour’s newly-selected parliamentary candidate for Bexhill and Battle, Michelle Thew, sat on the panel.

Also in attendance was Sarah Owen, prospective parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye, who has previously been very vocal in her support for local firefighters, particularly when The Ridge Fire Station at Hastings was under threat of being downgraded in 2012.

However one prominent campaigner questioned whether the party was ‘hijacking’ the meeting.

Helen Ashenheim said: “I’m very, very worried about what I’m hearing tonight.

“I’m worried there’s a party political hijack going on here.”

Local FBU secretary Mark Brown came to the defence of the group, saying: “I do not think that’s fair as the support we have had has been from a particular group.”

But Rother District Councillor for Battle, Kevin Dixon, a Liberal Democrat, interjected: “Your Battle councillors are standing up for you and that needs to be made totally clear.”

However there was one notable political absence on the evening, as one woman shouted from the audience: “Where the hell is our Member of Parliament?”

A spokesperson for Bexhill and Battle MP Greg Barker later told the Observer that Mr Barker had a ministerial trip booked and was due to fly out to the US on the night of the meeting.