Agenda item

Public Speaking

To note any requests to speak on any items that are on the agenda in accordance with the Council’s Public Speaking Scheme (see footnote to this agenda).


There were four public speakers in relation to item 10 on the agenda, Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service Resourcing to Risk Proposals.


Penny Barry stated: “I am requesting the Cabinet reject all of the proposals on the agenda for Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service and ask Chief Fire Officer Ben Brook and Councillor Crump to review and amend the proposed changes.  Surge fire stations will be storage sites and will leave the County dangerously inadequate to respond to emergency situations, particularly those living in the south.  We must not lose our on-call firefighters.  Part-time firefighters are not the answer.  It is accepted that Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service must make improvements following the last two HMICFRS inspections. These proposals are not the answer.  Furthermore, there is not sufficient information within the proposals, for Cabinet to make an informed decision.  I draw your attention to page 9 of the addendum, and I quote “We are not yet at the stage of making a firm recommendation”.  Therefore, objection to all of the proposals should be your only conclusion.  Changes need to happen.  I suggest that the Chief Fire Officer, Ben Brook, needs to go back to the drawing board and explore other options which should include keeping on-call to keep the people of Warwickshire safe.  Is there a proposed budget cut for Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service and, if so, by how much and is this steering the proposals?  These proposals are spurious, the only option to the Council is to reject them now.


Jill Machado stated: “I’ve lived in Bidford all my life, so I’ve seen what’s gone on and what’s not gone on.  I went through the last system of what Warwickshire County Council did, which was the closures of the fire stations and I sat with you, whoever was on at that time, I sat with you then and we went through and we fought for Bidford.  The main reason why we fight for Bidford is because the area is a high risk area, and which Chief Fire Officer Ben Brook has pointed out is a high risk area.  We have two rivers, we have desperate flooding, which has just occurred again.  We also have the A46 which comes alongside the back and between Alcester and us towards Evesham – that is an absolute death trap.  We’ve also got the crossroads, an accident death trap.  We have all these high risk areas, then we also have to support HMP Long Lartin, just over the border.  It happens quite regularly that the Fire Service are called to go and attend with Hereford and Worcestershire on that side.  I know there are changes afoot with Hereford and Worcestershire, so Pebworth may not stay the same, so my main point is we need to re-look at these proposals and especially in the case that Bidford is a high risk area, a dangerous area to be.”


Elizabeth Uggerloese, Clerk to Bidford-on-Avon Parish Council stated: “The maps in Appendix 6 demonstrate how vulnerable the south of the county will be if most of the stations are relegated to surge stations with a 30 minute to a two hour call time target.  How can you ensure that villages in the south of the county will be safe after 10pm when the only cover for the whole of the district will be one appliance based in Stratford.  With this in mind, have you considered the current relative response times of existing on-call stations.  Bidford’s turnout was 69.3% for October and specifically 88.5% from 19:00 hours to 07:00 hours.  How can the County Council consider relegating thriving stations like this to unused buildings resulting in the loss of effective stations for filling an important service to their local communities.  An example of the fatal cost of these closures in the south of the county is a domestic fire incident which occurred this summer in Bidford in the early hours of the morning.  Due to existing cover, the fire was put out with no loss of life.  If these proposals had been approved, it would not be one, but three to four dwellings on fire and potential loss of life.  Please think carefully about the safety of Warwickshire residents when considering the proposal in front of you which in effect will result in the closure of the majority of on-call fire stations with potentially serious safety issues.”


Penny Taylor, Chair of Bidford-on-Avon Parish Council stated: “We understand that the Fire Service needs to regularly review ways of working and performance targets but you won’t be surprised to learn that the people of Bidford have very serious concerns about the proposals being put forward.  Firstly, averages don’t work.  The statistics in the proposal all refer to averages and I am sure the averages will improve.  The average response times, take no account of the time it will take to reach the edges of the county from Stratford overnight.  You’ll always achieve better average response times if you put your focus on built up areas.  It is the distribution curve that matters.  How long will it take for appliances 1 and 2 to reach, say, Shipston or Henley or Bidford in the middle of the night?  Better averages are no good to you when you are dying in a road traffic accident at 11pm south of Bidford or trapped in a flood or a house fire in a rural area.  One of the key issues mentioned in the proposal is turnout.  It’s clear some fire stations have poor turnout percentages and, of course, this needs to be addressed, but is the solution really to take them all out rather than try and find ways to improve things.  As you’ve heard, Bidford, which has one of the best turnout responses in south Warwickshire, is quoted as averaging 70% but that 70% hides what’s happening between 7pm and 7am, as Elizabeth mentioned, when the turnout response is 88.5%.  That’s Bidford firefighters being at home on call out.  Now the number of fire engines: I was unable through the proposals to be clear on this but it certainly appears that seven or eight fire engines or vehicles, depending on the option model, will be surge vehicles.  It’s not quite clear, but I’d like to know where these are placed.  Will they be placed at the surge stations, will they be fire engines, what will they be?  If they’re fire engines, if there was a fire engine at Bidford station in preparation for a surge call out, surely it makes sense to carry on covering routine call-outs at peak evening and overnight when your call-out firefighters are at home and available?  Why stand them down?  And if it goes wrong and we need on-call stations again, it would take years to get them back up to where they are now and to get the watch commanders that can do it.  In summary, changes are no doubt needed, but surely we need to retain what we’ve got in stations where it’s working, otherwise, the message is don’t be involved in a serious incident after 10pm unless you happen to live near Stratford or Leamington.  Good average figures don’t save lives.”


The Chair thanked the speakers for their comments but noted there may have been a misunderstanding regarding the purpose of the report later on the agenda and there would be some reassurance during the debate.