County council decision NOT to respond to fire service cuts branded ‘a disgraceful episode’

Devon County Council (DCC) has voted against discussing whether it should make any formal response to proposed cuts to the fire service.

Councillor Martin Shaw, who represents the Colyton ward which could lose its fire station, put forward a motion to   his colleagues at Thursday’s full council meeting.

It called on DCC to urge the Fire Authority not to proceed with any of its seven proposed options.

Cllr Shaw asked for his motion to be debated on the day, and to not be first referred to cabinet as is the normal procedure.

He said: “I want this to be discussed today due to the impact it will have on the residents of Devon and by the time it has gone through cabinet and back to full council, the decision will have been made.”

But despite Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent Group councillors voting to discuss the motion on the day, the ruling Conservative Group voted against it and instead wished it to be referred to the cabinet.

As a result of the decision, Cllr Shaw withdrew the motion as there would be no point in it coming back to full council after the Fire Authority’s decision had been made.

After the meeting, he said it was a ‘disgraceful episode’ and accused the Conservatives of planning to vote through the station closures.

His motion had said: “This county council expresses its concern at the failure of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to formally consult the council, especially in the light of our role as partner under civil contingency legislation.

“This council believes that the service has not presented sufficiently detailed and costed proposals for additional prevention and protection work to outweigh the undoubted extra risk to many Devon residents from the closure of fire stations and removals of engines involved in the consultation proposals.

“In this light, the council urges the members of the Fire Authority not to proceed with any of the options but to ask for further work by the service on the future pattern of provision.”

Somerset County Council earlier this month slammed the proposal and said it would work with the Fire Authority to improve fire prevention – for instance, by encouraging people to stop smoking and taking steps to reduce the number of false alarms.

It also said the plans ‘do not appeal to fully appreciate’ the impact cuts would have on deprived areas, or the growing and ageing population of the whole county, and criticised the nature and layout of the consultation.

The council said the consultation document ‘appears to lead the reader’s thinking, has limited detail and does not allow for innovative thinking’.

Torbay Council’s cabinet had also voted unanimously to reject proposals for service changes.

The proposed changes to the fire service across Devon and Somerset set out in a series of options (with East Devon places affected in bold) are:

  • CLOSE eight fire stations in Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham, and Woolacombe;
  • CUT full-time night cover at fire stations in Barnstaple, Exmouth, and Paignton;
  • CUT the second fire engine at Crediton, Lynton, Martock and Totnes;
  • CUT the third fire engine at Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay, and Yeovil;
  • CUT the day cover for the second fire engine at 14 stations in Brixham, Chard, Dartmouth, Frome, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton, Wells, Wellington, and Williton;
  • INTRODUCE six roving fire engines to respond to incidents in areas of greatest risk and carry out prevention and protection work;
  • A mix-and-match seventh option is also presented.

The Fire Authority meets on November 8.

Fire cuts consultation results to be independently examined and report compiled by an external company