Controversial proposals for fire services in East Sussex are being redrawn, according to the chairman of the East Sussex Fire Authority. 

According to Cllr Roy Galley, the authority is in the process of rewriting a number of proposed changes to how East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) operates, known as the service’s Integrated Risk Management Plan.

The proposals included significant changes to the way firefighters are deployed in the county and, controversially, would have led to slower response times in some areas at evenings and weekends.

Cllr Galley spoke on the subject during a meeting of Wealden District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Monday (July 6), which he had been attending in his role as a cabinet member of that authority. 

He said:  “As members will know, the fire authority has been carrying out a consultation on some proposed changes to the fire service, some of which have been quite controversial. 

“As a result of the consultation responses and discussions with the Fire Brigades Union, we are now fashioning a new set of proposals which react to that consultation and have been negotiated with the union. 

“So they won’t be quite as dramatic as originally anticipated but there will be some changes and I think it would be very appropriate for the committee to be aware of what is happening

“The fire authority will meet on the 3rd of September and agree, hopefully, a package of changes to go ahead. It is all a matter of the democratic process obviously, but I think we have got a set of proposals now which will be broadly acceptable.”

The position set out by Cllr Galley was confirmed by both ESFRS and the  Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

An ESFRS spokesman said: “Detailed discussions have been taking place throughout the consultation process and senior officers have engaged in meaningful and constructive dialogue with a number of stakeholders and representative bodies including the Fire Brigades Union.

“An amended set of proposals are currently being drafted and will be discussed at a briefing session for Fire Authority members on July 13.

“Further refinement of the proposals will continue over the coming weeks ahead of the draft Integrated Risk Management Plan being presented to the Fire Authority for its consideration in September.”

It is currently unclear what the new proposals will look like, but the previous proposals had come in for significant criticism from the FBU, which described them as “a major threat to public safety”.

Although the union said not all its concerns had been addressed, it said the modified proposals would “significantly improve” on what was originally proposed.

A spokesman for the union said:  “While we recognise that not all of our concerns have been addressed we do consider these modified proposals to be a vast improvement on the original proposals.

“We do consider these modified proposals to significantly improve public and firefighter safety when compared to the original ones.   We believe that these new proposals also seek to address most of our members’ concerns around pay, pensions, conditions of service and duty systems.

“The FBU has been fully committed to ensuring that the service shall be well placed to deal with the foreseeable risks posed by fire and other emergencies to the public, firefighters, other agencies and business owners in East Sussex.

“We acknowledge that there still requires a significant amount of planning before implementation can fully commence and we shall take a full and active role in this work.”

The previous proposals included controversial staffing changes which were – according to fire service’s own documents – likely to see slower response times at weekends and evenings in some areas.

They could also have meant East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) would no longer come out to rescue birds stuck in nets or attend fire alarms at ‘low-risk’ commercial properties.