THE county’s fire service has today (Wednesday, May 7) announced draft plans to save £1.6million from its 2015/16 budget.
Fire officials from the service stressed that the cuts would not have an impact on response times to emergencies or the quality of response provided across West Sussex.
The organisation said the draft plan would be aimed at further improving the service already provided by West Sussex Fire and Rescue.
Chief fire officer Sean Ruth said: “The number of emergency calls we receive has fallen, and the types of incident we respond to has changed. We need to adapt our service to reflect this.
“We have done a huge amount to target prevention work to those most at risk.
“We want to continue to work even more closely with the communities we serve to reduce the likelihood of emergencies from occurring in the first place.”
The draft proposals will be considered by West Sussex County Council’s environment and community services select committee on Wednesday, May 14, after which a decision on whether they should go forward for public consultation will be taken by Lionel Barnard, the cabinet member for residents’ services.
The draft plans proposes to:
. Keep all fire stations open, but change the way fire engines are crewed, introduce new shift patterns and reduce the overall number of staff, including firefighters.
. Keep the same number of immediate response fire engines but move one from a temporary base to a permanent location and remove some second engines, and one third engine.
. Support the fire and rescue service with the prevention work it carries out, working closely with communities, professional partners and those most at risk.
. Will enhance resilience and existing community safety work with additional resources from a new Crewing Optimisation Group, as well as specialists to deal with severe weather events.
If a public consultation is agreed, it is likely to run from June 2 until August 22, before the proposals are considered by the county council in September.
The combined proposals, if approved, will achieve the service’s budget reduction target of £1.6million from its 2013-14 budget of £28.3million.
There are no plans to close any fire stations or reduce the number of immediate response fire engines.
A spokeswoman added: “Through the use of more flexible working we will continue to deliver a safe, professional and efficient fire and rescue service for people in West Sussex.”
The plan will see changes coming to how Littlehampton’s fire station, in Maltravers Road, operates.
It would become a 24-hour response station with one of two immediate response fire engines, currently based at Horsham, being moved to Littlehampton.
The fire service said this would help to improve immediate response capability across the Littlehampton, Worthing, Bognor, Chichester, Crawley and Horsham area.
The plan would require fewer firefighters at each station, with group crewing replacing the current four ‘watch’ system and firefighters would continue to work a 42-hour week, with a mix of both day and night shifts.
Further information will be available on the fire service website, here.