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East Sussex Fire and Rescue service to increase council tax while cutting services
Fire chiefs voted to increase council tax and introduce multimillion-pound cuts to frontline services.
East Sussex Fire Authority (ESFA) agreed to increase its council tax precept for 2014/15 by 1.94% as it looks to save £7.1 million over the next five years.
The increase means band D council tax will increase by £1.59 to £83.45 annually.
Fire bosses also agreed to consult the public on proposals to cut up to 80 jobs across the county.
Stations in Mayfield, Forest Row and Herstmonceux are at risk of closure while a fire engine could be lost in Brighton and Hove.
Services in Hastings and Battle could also lose a retained crew.
The proposals were dubbed the St Valentine’s Day Massacre by the authority’s Labour members, who voted against the plans.
The Fire Brigades Union also sent Valentine’s Day cards to members at the meeting held at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s headquarters in Eastbourne, urging councillors to vote against the plans.
Des Prichard, chief fire officer, said it was an “almost impossible task” finding £7.1 million of savings from a budget of just £39 million.
He said Labour’s suggesting of asking central government for more cash would return a resounding “no”.
Conservative, Green, Liberal Democrat and UKIP councillors from across East Sussex backed the cuts.
A joint statement from Labour's Parliamentary candidates in East Sussex said: “We are very concerned that all of the proposed changes are to frontline services - the people we rely on when we need help most - this is not acceptable.
“Before today people were telling us they want to see their firefighters protected.
“This news will come as a shock and cause outrage.”
Brighton and Hove Green councillor Stephanie Powell also asked for “consideration of remuneration packages from the top down”.
Phil Howson, East Sussex Fire Authority chairman, said: “Reductions in government funding meant that in July 2013, we estimated we needed to find savings of £7.1m over the next five years.
“This is an enormous challenge but we are determined to change the way we work so we can continue to provide a high performing service to the community within the reality of a shrinking budget.”
A ten-week public consultation period on the budget cuts will begin on Monday.