The meeting yesterday evening about the Fire Service in East Sussex was both very illuminating and deeply disturbing.

You may wish to consider signing the petition at you.38degrees And if you feel as worried as I do, there is a meeting on Thursday at which at which the future of our service will be decided, and the members who make up the panel can still be influenced.

Basically what came out of the meeting were three things: that a lot of people hadn’t heard of the consultation and those who had seen it were seriously concerned about the poor quality of it.

It was clear that it was not fit for purpose. One person said she was misinformed at the one-day consultation event at the Jubilee Library which most of us, including myself, did not even know about. In consequence, the third cause for concern is the extremely poor response to it. (600 out of 600,000 of us in East Sussex were mentioned, I believe.) The quality of the debate and the questions was also very high: in particular the contributions of the two prospective Parliamentary candidates on the panel, Davy Jones and Nancy Platts were excellent. Our MP for Kemptown Simon Kirby was also present. Purna Sen made some good points from the floor. Caroline Lucas apologised for her absence due to a long-standing prior engagement and sent an excellent statement. Mike Weatherley was not present.

It was admitted that deaths – albeit a small number – would result from the loss of a fire engine at Preston Circus. We were bombarded with figures about this, which I doubt anyone understood. But is even one extra death worth it?

I learnt so much from this meeting: for example, that Battle and Crowborough both have a regular (as opposed to retained) fire service. I cannot comment about the latter – but I lived near Battle for many years, and am surprised that they have this level of service, as most small country towns have a retained service.

They do not have the same issues that should make Brighton and Hove a special case, eg. high rise (with more to come as central Government is coercing us into building more dwellings than we have space for), a high student population, crammed into houses in multiple occupation in many cases and the ever-growing number of party houses that are a disaster waiting to happen, given overcrowding and alcohol in abundance.

All we have in common with Battle is a large number of elderly people. It’s distasteful to try to shift the problem in general – but in this case I feel justified in asking the question; does Battle REALLY need a full-time professional fire department?

There seems to be a simple solution (not my idea, but from those on the panel): utilise the reserves while a proper consultation is carried out.

Decisions taken in haste rarely yield the best result.

Val Cane Queen’s Park Road, Brighton