Friday, 20 May 2016

Welcome to our new Fire & Rescue Service recruits

We have 12 new full time West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service recruits who have just started their 14 week training. It was really good to welcome them to West Sussex County Council earlier this week.

I am extremely proud of our fire and rescue service which is part of the County Council.

One of the council’s guiding principles is that we are here for our residents in an emergency. More often than not that involves our fire and rescue officers, whether it is fire, road traffic accidents, floods or another type of emergency. The fire service is there on the front line to serve, save and protect.

The training these recruits are embarking on is very important and specialised to help them meet the demands they will face. Training will continue throughout their time with the service as new equipment and techniques come forward.

Some may undertake very specialised training sometime in their future career, perhaps to join the Technical Rescue Unit. This is a team of experts with specialist skills that can be called out to help across the county on a daily basis. The team has also been able to support national and international resilience with a key role in the UK’s International Search and Rescue Team.

Much of the work our fire and rescue service undertakes is preventative work, particularly with vulnerable members of our communities. For example, last year the service fitted 4,000 smoke alarms, fitted 3,749 community fire links (radio-linked smoke alarms for vulnerable residents which link to existing 'Careline' or 'Lifeline' monitoring centres) and carried out 6,516 home safety visits.

This community preventative work is really important. It also makes our fire service different from other models across the country as it is fully integrated within the County Council. You may not realise that currently our Chief Fire Officer is the interim Chief Operating Officer until our new Chief Executive starts next month.

Our fire service staff are also very involved in supporting the community with a range of initiatives, working side by side with our other services to support residents.

Working in this joined up way means that all the important frontline services work together and each understands the various roles of the County Council. This means a better service for our residents and is cost efficient so is better value for our taxpayer.

Nationally there is discussion around local fire services linking up with Police and coming under the local Police and Crime Commissioner’s jurisdiction.

There are quite a few ‘stand-alone’ fire and rescue authorities in the country. For these independent services coming under the local Police and Crime Commissioner’s jurisdiction may be a sensible option. However, it is clearly a matter for local determination. It is my view that for us in West Sussex, where we have a fully integrated service focused on looking after our residents, it would be a great loss if the fire service was moved away from the County Council. This is something we may be looking at in more detail at in the future.

Finally I just want to revisit something I talked about in my last blog – academisation. I am really pleased the Government listened to our views (although of course we were just one voice joining in with other counties) that we had concerns about forced academisation of local authority schools. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to email me and contact the council in support.

Best wishes,

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