A fire chief has promised to keep all stations open, despite the service’s budget being cut by a fifth.
As it looks to save more than £7 million from its £40 million budget over the next five years, bosses at East Sussex Fire and Rescue have warned as many as 80 posts will be scrapped. Despite this figure including up to 70 firefighters, the service’s chief fire officer Des Prichard told The Argus there were no plans to close any of the county’s 24 stations.
It comes as the service launched a consultation to ask members of the public if they preferred a council tax increase of 1.94% in the coming financial year or a freeze – which would mean bosses having to find an extra £200,000 of savings.
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Speaking to The Argus yesterday, Mr Prichard said he could give an “absolute guarantee” that no stations would close in the coming year. He said: “What we need to be sure of is that all our fire stations are in the right place with the right equipment and the right shift patterns.”
He admitted it was “inevitable” staff numbers would reduce, adding the service was planning to scrap between 60 and 80 of its current 920 posts.
Mr Prichard said the service had invested in technology in recent years while work in thecommunity on fire safety had reduced the number of calls by 50% in the last ten years.
He added the service was well placed to meet the challenges ahead to ensure the 750,000 people living in the area were kept safe.
Addressing senior management costs, Mr Prichard said the authority had already reduced its top team from five to four officers.
He added those at the top had been the only ones in the organisation not to take a pay rise in the last three years.
The fire service budget for 2013/14 is £39.1 million, with the majority of this (56%) coming from council tax contributions.
Bosses said a council tax increase of 1.94% – the maximum amount possible – would see the amount a Band D household would pay from £81.86 to £83.45.
Afinal decision on the budget will be taken by the fire authority in February.