VOTE: Should East and West Sussex merge their fire services?

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PROPOSALS to merge West and East Sussex fire services have revealed expected management job losses, as authorities seek to cut a total of £3.8 million from their budgets.

Deputy county fire officer Sean Ruth defended the plans at a public meeting held at Worthing library on Tuesday (July 19), promising frontline services would be maintained.

He confirmed that no further stations were scheduled to close under the merger and said crew response times would be unaffected.

But concerns remained from residents over whether the creation of a new separate fire authority for a combined county-wide service would result in an increase in residents’ council tax.

Officer Ruth said: “This is a massive decision for both services as once it’s done, that’s it for the future so our councils have to get this right.

“But we have done lots of analysis already and we’ll be continuing to talk to residents and the business community about it.

“Most people we have talked to believe that it is something that makes sense.” His views were echoed by colleague Gary Towson, who led a public information day in Worthing town centre on Tuesday.

He said: “The whole idea of this is to protect the frontline services that people care about so much.

“It will mean some jobs affected by this at management level, but by doing this we will be able to maintain all the existing stations that we have and we will look to redeploy anyone affected. I believe this will help us become more efficient service.”

However, residents in Findon remain concerned after the closure of its fire station last year as part of a separate review.

Its parish council chairman Peter Goldsworthy said: “Our concerns are no different from where they were last year when 5,000 people signed the petition against the closure of the station. Without it, this means crews will have to come out from Worthing which will take longer.”

The public consultation runs until October 6, with a final decision in December.

Visit www.westsussex.gov.uk

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