Cabinet votes unanimously in favour of cuts to fire service

Firefighters from Bury St Edmunds pictured with the appliance that may be lost due to cut backs. ANL-151125-174650009
Firefighters from Bury St Edmunds pictured with the appliance that may be lost due to cut backs. ANL-151125-174650009

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet has voted unanimously in favour of cuts to the fire service that would see Bury St Edmunds lose one of its fire engines and six on-call firefighters.

Cabinet met this afternoon to discuss the council’s Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) which will see £1 million slashed from the fire budget.

The proposals have proved very unpopular with residents in Bury with more than 6,100 people signing a petition against the plans.

Results of a 14-week consultation showed that of 1,654 questionnaires received, 77 percent of people disagreed with the removal of Bury’s third engine and 61 percent strongly disagreed.

Cabinet members Cllr Beccy Hopfensperger and Cllr Sarah Stamp, who both live in Bury, voted in favour of the decision.

Last week the Bury fire crew called on the councillors to back them up and reject the plans saying: “They have been clearly mandated by the people of Bury to reject these proposals.”

In the meeting Cllr Stamp said cabinet members have to look at the ‘bigger picture’ and the county as a whole.

She said: “Whilst considering the papers over the past few days, I have been reassured by the judgement and professional opinion of the Chief Fire Officer, who has gar more expertise that I do, that he, as an expert, is confident that this IRMP provides an appropriate service to our residents.

“As politicians, we sometimes face difficult and controversial decisions and today for me, is one of those times.

“You’ll be aware that there has been some press interest over the past few days over this decision locally in Bury St Edmunds and I have listened and taken note of all that has been said and sought reassurance from both the Cabinet Member and the Chief Fire Officer.

“These decisions are always emotive and difficult to make but as Cabinet Members we have to look at the bigger picture and the need of the County as a whole.”

Cllr Hopfensperger said she was impressed with the extensive consultation but warned a close eye must be kept on 999 call-outs in the Bury area.

“Whilst I appreciate that Bury has the lowest 999 call volumes out of the three full time fire stations, my concerns however lie in resilience in the long term given the proposed expansion and development of Bury over the next five years,” she said.

“I would like the cabinet member’s assurance should risk to Bury be increased and the number of calls increase that the proposals will be reviewed and amended accordingly to the risk.”

Elsewhere in the county, Sudbury would keep its second engine and on-call crew and Wrentham would keep its fire station.

Wrentham’s fire engine will be replaced by a rapid response engine and its on-call crew reduced by three.

Ipswich Princes Street fire station would lose one of two full-time fire engines and 16 full-time crew.

Ipswich East would lose its third fire engine and six on-call firefighters and Lowestoft South would lose one engine and six on-call firefighters.