Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Public Meeting - Proposed Closure of Brinklow Fire Station

Last night I attended a public meeting in Monks Kirby arranged by the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service for local residents to comment on the Improvement Plan that was being developed with the aim of improving the fire and rescue service provided to the residents of Warwickshire and to re-use the resources available in a more effective way.

Attendance at the meeting included
Chief Fire Officer Graeme Smith (who gave a presentation on the Improvement Plan proposals) and Councillor Richard Hobbs, Warwickshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Community Safety.

The proposal that has gained the most public attention is the plan to reduce the number of fire stations in Warwickshire from 19 to 12, resulting in seven existing stations closing. The public meeting last night focused primarily on the proposals for the
Brinklow fire station, one of those earmarked for closure.

As you might have imagined, it was a lively meeting with almost everyone in attendance opposed to the closure plans. I had attended with a somewhat open mind (unlike many of the more shrill voices being heard), as I genuinely did not think the Chief Fire Officer wished to put lives at risk, and nor did he wish to run down his service in order to save money. But listening to the debate left me more certain that the closure of many (but perhaps not all) of the seven stations due for closure was not, at this moment, necessary in order to introduce the many other good aspects of the Improvement Plan that we could all find favour with.

A number of the points made on the night that deserve further consideration included:

  • would a more remotely-based fire station be operated by firefighters without the local knowledge of the rural areas in the county (and their peculiarities)?
  • could the Improvement Plan be implemented in a phased approach, with station closures as a very last option, rather than the all-or-nothing approach proposed?
  • concern that the proposals would result in an overall reduction in the number of firefighters working in the county.
Fires in Barnacle and Shilton are tackled in the first instance by fire engines from Bedworth fire station (Brinklow, Nuneaton and Rugby stations provide backup if required), so the proposals being discussed last night would not have quite the effect that the proposal to close the Bedworth fire station and amalgamate it with Nuneaton could have. Nonetheless, it was an interesting meeting that demonstrated the depth of public feeling against proposals that are being interpreted as placing people and property at a greater risk than at the moment.

Councillor Hobbs did confirm though that the final decision to adopt or reject the plan will be taken by all 62 county councillors at a full council meeting, rather than just by the Cabinet as originally planned. This is significant in that it means that local county councillor
Phillip Morris-Jones will have a vote on the matter - and he made his opposition to the plans very clear at the parish council meeting on 6 October.

The consultation period runs until 8 December, with further information available
here. A report on last night's meeting by the Rugby Advertiser, including video footage from the meeting, can also be viewed here.

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