At the SCC full council meeting in October 2019, I raised concerns about the lack of night fire cover in Haslemere and the cutting of 7 night appliances across the county. Haslemere’s geography means there is further pressure as stations provide fire cover for each other, however, it is a long way to drive to Haslemere for other stations to provide cover. Haslemere is no longer considered a priority fire station despite proximity to the A3 and Hindhead Tunnel.
This was the question I put to full council last October:
The recently issued Making Surrey Safer Plan purports to “make sure we have the right resources in the right places at the right time to respond when you need us”.
Haslemere fire station is a high priority station due to its proximity to the Hindhead Tunnel on the A3 and its distance from neighbouring stations. Due to a lack of supervisory managers at Haslemere’s on call unit, wholetime appliances have had to be moved to Haslemere to provide cover over night.
When there have been insufficient wholetime fire appliances available retained/on call appliances have been moved to Haslemere to cover the shortfall.
During August this resulted in “Standby” appliances being moved from their base station elsewhere in the county to Haslemere to provide night cover twenty times.
On occasion, when there have been insufficient resources, the Haslemere area has been abandoned without cover for a period of 24 hours.
At present the Fire Service is struggling to maintain cover at night. This situation will be exacerbated by the cutting of a further 7 appliances at night.
The new Making Surrey Safer Plan
· slashes the night time cover throughout the county, potentially leaving Haslemere exposed,
· increases dependency on an already over-stretched pool of part-time fire fighters, and
· relies on crews backing each other up over long distances at risk to the base station’s primary response area.
The Plan therefore increases rather than reduces the risk to my constituents’ safety and fails to ensure the right resources will be in the right place at the right time to respond to residents’ needs in emergency. Far from driving the improvements called for by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate last year, Surrey’s Plan is a roadmap for deterioration in our fire service.
QUESTION 1: Would the leader please explain how, if the plan is implemented in its current form, I can reassure my constituents that they will be safe in their beds at night if the reduction of seven night time appliances across Surrey leaves insufficient resources when 24 hour fire cover at Haslemere cannot currently be guaranteed?
QUESTION 2: Due to the nature of the on-call system, fire crew availability can never be guaranteed. Staff are already struggling with the extra demands on their time covering the shortfalls. Do you believe the heavy reliance on retained/on call stations is sustainable once there is a further reduction of seven appliances at night?
I am pleased that Denise Turner Stewart, Cabinet Member for Community Safety Fire & Resilience, accepted my invitation and met fire officers on Friday 14th February at Haslemere Fire Station to hear their concerns. Also, in attendance was the assistant fire chief officer. I am overwhelmed by the dedication of fire crew and how they have worked as a team in the face of more and more stretched resources to keep offering a fire service for Haslemere. I am worried going forward about the impact of the new transformation.
The team accepts there need to be new ways of working however, personally, I am very concerned about night fire cover and response times in Haslemere.
Denise listened. The firefighters and I are truly grateful she took the time to do so. She has agreed to stay in touch, reflect on the conversation and monitor the stats (response times and crew availability) following this meeting. The new changes come into effect on April 1st over response times and issue of night cover.