Sea fire crew return welcomed

MOVES to restore Suffolk's firefighting at sea service were today welcomed by the authority which scrapped it in the first place.Peter Monk, portfolio holder for public protection at Suffolk County Council, said the announcement was excellent news and it was shame local opinion had not been listened to in the first place.

By Richard Cornwell

MOVES to restore Suffolk's firefighting at sea service were today welcomed by the authority which scrapped it in the first place.

Peter Monk, portfolio holder for public protection at Suffolk County Council, said the announcement was excellent news and it was shame local opinion had not been listened to in the first place.

"We had been making remonstrations about the cost of the firefighting at sea service and the need for it to be examined to the Home Office and Deputy Prime Minister's office for some time," said Mr Monk.

"It seems now that notice has been taken. I just hope in future that local authorities will be listened to on these matters. If they had taken action before we would not have needed to withdraw the service.

"But today's announcement is good news, very positive. It sounds a good idea and we look forward to hearing the details."

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Mr Monk said the firefighting at sea service had been axed because of costs and to protect the safety of firefighters and people on land. It was feared that if there was an incident at sea, it could leave the land-based service stretched.

While the new scheme does not provide extra officers, Mr Monk felt that teaming up with either Essex or Norfolk county councils would spread the resources and not cause such a manpower problem.

Mayor of Felixstowe Malcolm Minns said: "I am delighted to hear that firefighting cover will be restored for shipping off our coast.

"With the growth of Felixstowe port and the traffic it handles, and the growth of Harwich, too, our area is probably above all others one which should have an adequate firefighting at sea cover.

"It seems a right and proper move and one which the town council will support wholeheartedly."

Andrew Linington, spokesman for officers' union NUMAST, said: "We are very pleased indeed. We have been campaigning for a couple of years on this and met twice with government ministers last year but felt they were being somewhat complacent over the matter.

"This news though is recognition that action needs to be taken and that the current situation cannot continue – we are gambling with lives and safety by allowing so many gaps around the UK's coastline and that must not be allowed to deteriorate further."

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