Policy panel sank sea firefighting team

SUFFOLK'S firefighting at sea unit was a victim of the county's new secret structure for making decisions, The Evening Star reveals today.The plan to disband the unit was discussed by a Policy Development Panel, meeting behind closed doors.

By Paul Geater

SUFFOLK'S firefighting at sea unit was a victim of the county's new secret structure for making decisions, The Evening Star reveals today.

The plan to disband the unit was discussed by a Policy Development Panel, meeting behind closed doors.

That panel came up with the recommendation to disband the unit, which was rubber-stamped – without alteration – by three levels of the county council.


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The first suggestion that the firefighting at sea unit didn't have a positive future came in April 2001 when the idea of setting up a panel was first suggested.

This was confirmed at a meeting of the county's caring and protection committee in August last year.

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The panel met three times, in September and November 2001 and in January this year.

It comprised of three councillors, two representatives of the Fire Brigades Union, two senior fire officers, two members of the firefighting at sea team and two firefighters from Lowestoft who were not members of the FBU or the firefighting team.

The panel was set up after a request from the FBU through the fire service's joint consultative committee.

The arguments thrashed out during the three panel meetings were disclosed – and it is not known who voted for or against the unit during the meetings.

It was at these meetings that the cost of running the service was detailed exactly – at £9,380 a year.

The FBU has always been opposed to the firefighting at sea unit, but the position of other firefighters is unclear.

The members of the unit are believed to have wanted it to be retained – but fire chiefs have been coy about their attitude towards the disbanding.

Malcolm Allcock, chief fire officer, said: "We can appreciate the reasons which lie behind the authority's decision to disband the firefighting at sea unit."

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