Fire service future for debate

SUFFOLK residents are being asked how they think the fire service should be run over the next few years.For the second year running the Suffolk fire and rescue service are asking the public to give their opinions on the authority.

SUFFOLK residents are being asked how they think the fire service should be run over the next few years.

For the second year running the Suffolk fire and rescue service are asking the public to give their opinions on the authority.

The service has published its draft risk management plan, called A Safer Suffolk, with 14 suggestions of changes to the service.

Ideas include getting more retained firefighters to help cover parts of rural Suffolk, getting better equipment to tackle road accidents, reviewing how many retained engines there are at stations, and reducing the number of firefighters dedicated to using the turntable ladder.

Peter Monk, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for public protection, said: "Suffolk's fire and rescue service is something we all pay for through our council tax and yet hope we never have to call upon.

"How it operates and meets the needs of this varied and rural county is something we have looked at in great detail."

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"It is vital that people and businesses give their views and this year's plan is available on the Internet with a feedback page. Remember, it's your service and your views can shape its future."

But the Fire Brigades Union said it had serious concerns about the proposals and was organising public meetings in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds later this month to discuss them.

Steve Brinkley, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the union, said: "We are all for a safer Suffolk, but we fear a lack of funding, that this is about cuts.

"We are finding at the moment that the Government is not pumping any extra money in, other than the normal one or two per cent increase. That is not anywhere near enough.

"Nationally our union is campaigning for zero deaths in fires. We get zero tolerance on domestic violence, zero tolerance for drink-driving, but with the fire service politicians do not say they want zero deaths in fires because it will cost them too much money."

The plan is available to read and comment on at: www.suffolkcc.gov.uk/fire_service/fire_news/irmp.html

Anyone without access to the Internet can find a copy at libraries, fire stations or by calling 01473 588861 or 01473 264871.

After consultation the plan will then be submitted to the county council's executive committee for adoption with a view to implementing it from April 2005.

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