How vital is the fire station?

THERE was anger this week as it was revealed that the county’s fire chief Des Prichard earned more money than Prime Minister David Cameron last year.

The news comes as concern mounts in villages such as Icklesham, Westfield, Fairlight and Pett over plans to downgrade the Ridge Fire Station.

The move could lengthen response times by up to four minutes and protestors claim lives could be put at risk.

A public meeting takes place at Icklesham Memorial Hall on Saturday morning.

The downgrade is being fiercely opposed by Rye MP Amber Rudd and her Labour counterpart Sarah Owen. Both have taken public concerns to parliament.

Fire Chief Des Prichard, who has been in the job for 12 years, was paid £151,858 in total last year in salary, fees and allowances.

Prime Minister David Cameron takes a salary of £142,500, almost £10,000 a year less than Mr Prichard.

The Fire Authority is trying to make savings of £1.9 million over the next two years.

But Mr Prichard told the Observer that the consultation over the Ridge fire station was purely for operational reasons and nothing to do with finances.

Rye Labour Prospective Parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen asked: “How can you justify paying the chief fire officer more than the Prime Minister?

“This just can’t be justified when front line cuts are on the table.”

Protestors have staged demonstrations outside the Ridge fire station bearing placards which say that the downgrade could amount to murder.

They say lives and property would be at risk due to the longer response times.

Phil Bailey, 24, who founded a Save Our Fire Station campaign, said: “I was shocked to hear the fire chief is earning so much.

“It just does not seem to make sense. How can this be right if they are trying to make savings?

“There are some members of our campaign who have said they will stop paying their council tax if that is the only way to get the message across.

“If the Authority has to save mnoney then it should be made from the vast salaries of some of the principal officers.

County councillor Phil Scott, a member of the Fire Authority, said: “It is an operational matter that will save money in the long term.

“If he wants to redeploy resources the considerations in that regard are financial.

“As a consequence that will save money. he does not want to be seen to be giving less fire cover.”

Fire Authority chairman John Livings said: “Mr Prichard deserves his pay.”