Spelthorne's formal response to Surrey's proposed 'Making Surrey Safer Plan', has been submitted expressing significant concern about proposed cuts to fire services in the Borough, which would result in reduced night-time cover. From when it was announced in 2017 that Staines and Sunbury fire stations were to be closed and replaced with a single station in Ashford, this Council has consistently argued for the current arrangement of two whole-time crews to be retained to protect our residents and businesses.
Despite the concerns, Surrey is still proposing to cut night-time cover in our Borough under its 'Making Surrey Safer plan'. Spelthorne Cabinet has discussed this matter and the response outlines the deep and widespread disquiet shared by Councillors and officers alike over the proposed changes to fire cover in the Borough.
To summarise, the Council are concerned that Surrey County Council have not applied their risk based approach appropriately in proposing reduced night-time cover in Spelthorne. The risk factors associated with our population and our location (with a number of high-risk sites within our boundary; being close to Heathrow Airport and the M25; having a long river frontage; and an increasing number of high-rise residential and office blocks) mean it does not make sense to be cutting night-time cover within Spelthorne.
Although Spelthorne supports the proposal for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service to spend more time on community and business (eg prevention safety, community risks and home support/advice) we have significant concerns over the way the Service is proposing to take this forward, their capacity to deliver on their objectives and the time it will take for this increase in preventative work to have any significant reduction in critical incident call-outs. In these circumstances, we strongly believe that SFRS should not make any proposed cuts in night-time fire cover in Surrey until the results of the increased preventative work are thoroughly analysed and shown to be having the desired effect.
Although we can understand the rationale in trying to increase the pool of on-call firefighters, any changes to the way they are recruited and used must not have any significant adverse effect on response times and must not cause excessive pressure on these part-time crews, which could affect their welfare and performance. The fact that there would be more reliance on these on-call crews to respond at night may make it more difficult to recruit to these posts, even with an expanded catchment area.
Having viewed the proposed plan and analysed the available background documents, we believe that Spelthorne has a strong case for the retention of the existing two whole-time crews at night and we will continue to fight any plan which proposes such cuts to the fire service within our Borough.
Issued: 6 June 2019