POLITICIANS have exchanged barbs over plans to cut fire engines and firefighters.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Authority has proposed to cut ten of its engines and dozens of staff from its force.

Conservatives and Lib Dems on the authority voted in April to put the plan to the public until June 19 before councillors decide on it.

But the move was opposed by the Fire Brigades Union and Labour and Green councillors who said the consultation should not take place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now a row has erupted between vice-chairwoman Councillor Carolyn Lambert and two MPs over their calls to delay the plan, known as the risk management plan.

Fire authorities have a legal duty to draw up these plans to adapt to changes in demand.

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield and Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle wrote to fire authority members demanding a moratorium on any changes to the fire service.

“We think it is premature also to be making determinations that may need to change again in 12 months’ time,” the letter read.

“No one knows what the future shape of local government, including fire and police services, will look like after this pandemic.”

But Cllr Lambert claimed it was not possible to halt the consultation without risking punishment by the Government.

“In April, Security Minister James Brokenshire wrote to all fire and rescue services emphasising work on plans must continue and a failure to do so could result in Government intervention,” she said.

“Our recent inspection report made it clear that we needed to review and update our risk management plan.

“Experienced professional firefighters have spent 18 months analysing years of data to keep both the public and our firefighters safe.

“If Maria’s not happy with the plan then she should take that up with her Government which has cut our funding by almost 80 per cent over the past decade.”

Both MPs have stood by the letter. Mr Russell-Moyle and Ms Caulfield told The Argus Cllr Lambert’s comments were “disappointing”

“She hasn’t come to me and asked if I can put their case to the Treasury for more money,” Mr Russell-Moyle said.

“We need to suspend the current consultation so we can look at the plan on a need and demand basis.”