Kevin Backs Torquay Firefighters
Leading Conservative Calls On Fire Authority To Withdraw Dangerous Proposal To Cut Fire Cover At Torquay Fire Station.
On Friday 22nd March 2013 Kevin visited Torquay Fire Station to meet with the Group Commander for South Devon & Dartmoor, the FBU representative for the station and Red Watch to get a clear picture of what is being proposed, as well as firefighters views on it. Following this meeting he has declared his support for the campaign to retain the second engine as a whole time one and his written to the Fire Authority calling on them to abandon this plan.
Commenting Kevin said: “Whilst we all hope never to need the Fire Service, it is vital they are there for when the Emergency Calls come in. I believe the proposal being advanced by the Fire Authority does not take into account the geographical location of the bay, the growing presence of homes in multiple occupation, as well as the large seasonal increase in the bay’s population. The total package of cuts proposed exceeds what is needed and therefore there is no reason to pursue this option any further. I believe to implement Proposal 10 would be dangerous for the local community. I am therefore backing firefighters and the Fire Brigades Union in calling for this to be withdrawn and have put my name to the petition calling for this.
An online petition calling on the Fire Authority to abandon this plan can be signed by following this link: http://www.thisisdevon.co.uk/say-Torquay-cover-faces-chop-sign-online-petition/story-17939702-detail/story.html#axzz2OffXresM
Full Text of Letter From Kevin Foster to Cllr Mark Healey, Chair of Devon and Somerset Fire Authority:
Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service,
Service Headquarters ,
Clyst St George,
26th March 2013
Proposal Ten – Torquay Fire Station
I am writing to set out my concerns about the proposal being consulted on by the Fire Authority in relation to Torquay Fire Station, as you will know my Uncle spent many years in Devon Fire & Rescue Service until his death in 2002 so this is an issue which is close to my heart.
I have meet with the Group Commander for South Devon & Dartmoor, the FBU representative for the station and one of the watches that is based at the station to get a clear picture of the impact of what is being proposed. I accept that the Fire Service is facing the need to make savings and we have discussed before the particular circumstances of Devon & Somerset where providing fire cover across large rural areas brings its own challenges. Yet on the basis of what I have been presented with, along with my own knowledge of the service, I firmly believe this proposal is one that the Fire Authority needs to withdraw and reconsider.
My key concerns centre on the geographical location of Torquay in terms of additional support coming from outside the bay, the growing number of properties that are homes in multiple occupation and the seasonal increase in population linked to the tourism industry. I also note that whilst the Authority is required to make savings of £5.5m a year, the 11 proposals being put forward include total savings of up to £6.8m a year. I hope this is an indication of a real intention to reconsider what is being suggested based on the consultation response.
As you will know parts of Torquay are difficult to access speedily by road, even on blue light response. The current road works on the A380, connected to the construction of the Kingskerswell Bypass, perfectly demonstrate the problem with traffic backing up in a way that hinders additional support reaching the town if necessary, beyond the sole crew at Paignton.
I know a comparison is being made with Exeter in terms of explaining the proposals, but the two towns are in a very different position. Exeter benefits from being at the centre of the M5, A38 & A30 network meaning resources can literally be brought in from north, south, east and west to support the response to an incident. Torquay is flagrantly not in the same type of location. In my view it is not unreasonable to keep full time cover in the bay area to deal with a property fire in a flat above the second storey without having to depend on the arrival of retained/external resources to do so.
As you will know Torquay is seeing a growth in the number of properties that are being split into homes of multiple occupation. I know you have presented at the Fire Commission on the issues this raises and it brings further concerns about proposal number 10. The nature of the tourism industry in the bay means that many workers are seasonal and this creates a strong demand for this type of accommodation, one that is only likely to grow given current pressures on housing. The presence of more homes of multiple occupation means the risk profile is likely to rise and combined with Torquay’s geographical position makes proposal 10 all the more risky.
The final key concern is the large increase in the bay’s population that takes place during events and over the peak holiday periods. As pointed out by the FBU the summer population can be almost double the number of permanent residents. Events held in the bay may also produce additional demand for Fire Cover, further making the case to retain the current provision and withdraw Proposal 10.
Finally I was particularly concerned that there was no clear framework for what conditions would see the mothballed engine crewed, beyond reference to SPATE conditions, if Proposal 10 is implemented. Whilst the engine would physically still be present at the station if not crewed it is unlikely to be of any real use.
I noted that there was no clear link to the Authority’s IRMP or any form of decision criteria in terms of when it may be brought into use. It struck me that the mothballed engine being left in the garage seemed to have no other benefit than allowing a somewhat spurious claim to be made that three fire engines would still be present at Torquay in the event Proposal 10 goes ahead.
I hope the above is of interest and I hope this dangerous proposal will be withdrawn.
Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for Torbay