Decision-day for controversial plans to shut fire stations in Budleigh Salterton, Colyton and Topsham – and cut full-time night cover in Exmouth – has been delayed until after Christmas.
Honiton and Sidmouth would also lose their second engines under sweeping changes proposed across Devon and Somerset.
The fate of the Safer Together proposals was due to be sealed on December 18, however, the forthcoming general election has seen this bumped until early in the new year.
Eight rural fire stations are under threat, with the mothballing a number of engines and converting fully-manned facilities into part-time operations also outlined in the options.
A Fire Authority meeting yesterday (Friday) saw members unanimously agree that a D-day meeting should be postponed until early in 2020.
Mike Pearson, director of governance and digital services, said in a report: “Since the publication of the agenda for this meeting of the authority, a snap general election has been called for December 12.
“While the pre-election period rules – known as purdah – are not strictly applicable, given the potential for significant political issues arising from consideration of controversial proposals in such close proximity to a general election, an authority meeting within this period would have been avoided had the date of the general election been known at the time the date of the additional meeting of the authority was set.
“Additionally, the service has received representations from representative bodies expressing concerns about the potential impact on staff welfare arising from any decisions on the consultation proposals being taken a few days prior to the Christmas break.
“Taking account of these issues and having consulted with the chair of the authority, it is proposed that the authority cancels its meeting scheduled for December 18.”
Sara Randall-Johnson, chairman of the Fire Authority, proposed that the recommendations be accepted, adding: “As a result of the snap general election and it being as close to the festive season as the meeting is, then it is prudent to move it into the new year.”
Councillor Ann Bown added: “I am delighted that it is being delayed.
“It was inhumane to have it just before Christmas, as we would be dealing with people’s lives. This meeting should be after Christmas, so at least, whatever we decide, they can enjoy their Christmas with their families.”
The uuthority unanimously agreed to cancel the December 18 meeting and to allow its clerk to identify a new date for the additional meeting of the authority to be held early in 2020.
It is the second time that the meeting has been delayed.
The decision was initially due to be made yesterday (November 8), but this was moved to December due to the overwhelming response to a public consultation.
Implementation of any changes agreed will commence in 2020.
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.