Friday, 14 July 2017

We’re so glad you’re here

It’s Friday afternoon, not my usual time to write a blog but I wanted to let you know about my huge sigh of relief today.

In a meeting that has just finished Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Sussex, has told us she plans to leave the governance of West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service with the County Council.

Last year Government asked police and crime commissioners across the country to look at the governance of fire services to make sure they were efficient, effective and collaborative.

Since the announcement we have been sharing with the PCC our plans for our fire service and our reasons as to why it absolutely should stay where it is in its home at the County Council.

I am delighted to report that Katy has listened to us on this.

So why did it matter so much and why am I so very relieved and delighted that our Fire and Rescue Service is staying here?

Back in 2014 we made a conscious decision to fully embed the service within the County Council. So much of our preventative work is carried out by our fire service; they go in to see residents to carry out home safety checks but, while they are there, they can do so much more. Their work around flood prevention and resilience has helped so many communities which have had their lives blighted by flooding; something lauded nationally. Trading Standards is part of the service to help protect residents from some terrible scams. Their FireBreak sessions - activity courses with the fire service for young people who need support and help - are so appreciated by their families. These are just some examples of the list of things our Fire and Rescue Service does daily for our communities.

As a fully integrated service it is efficient and effective and our residents praise it. It offers good value for money. Yes, we have had to take savings out of our Fire and Rescue Service and have redesigned the way the service runs – but we are now in a period of stability and have some innovative plans for the future.

Last year we did a consultation where we asked our residents ‘what matters to you?’ The top priority was residents want to feel safe. If we did a survey tomorrow that message would probably be the same – these are uncertain times and at such times we need stability – not change for change’s sake.

And of course our Fire and Rescue Service is always there in an emergency.

Certainly, in August 2015 that promise was tested like it has never been tested before. The tragic Shoreham air crash was devastating for everyone involved. Being a close observer I was so humbled by the utter dedication and selflessness of fire fighters; being there for the communities they serve, no matter what.

Even as I write the memory of the tragedy, their response and the support long after the news cameras had left is so very emotional. I learned that in tragic times fire and rescue services across the country are a very large family, they come forward with offers of help and support.

I saw how all our brilliant emergency services worked together to make sure we are there for our residents when they need help.

I recall standing on the Old Shoreham Toll Bridge for a minute’s silence; a moment I will never forget. I witnessed the role our Fire and Rescue Service played in the aftermath – the recovery phase - and again I remain so proud that what they learned from that experience meant they could recently extend help to London in the wake of their own tragedy.

Fire and rescue services across the land are a united group serving residents when they most need it.

Our Fire and Rescue Service is there for you in an emergency, there to serve you so you don’t have an emergency and there to support the communities in West Sussex every hour of every day.

That’s why I love our Fire and Rescue Service and why I am so very glad we are keeping it close to home – home in West Sussex County Council.

Best wishes,



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