If you want a fire & rescue service that keeps you safe, then your vote matters on the 6th of May. I am not a member of a political party and my vote is not guaranteed to any particular party. That is because none of them have policies that I am in full agreement with, so when I vote I consider the candidates, their policies, and their performance.
Whilst campaigning in support of our fire & rescue services I have engaged with politicians, local and national, from every political party that will listen. The one conclusion I have come to though is that Conservative candidates do not deserve our support. Nationally and locally, they have done immense damage to our fire & rescue service and we are all less safe as a result.
Please note that it is Devon County Council, Somerset County Council, Torbay Council and Plymouth City Council who appoint Councillors to the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority.
Conservative cuts = a slower and less effective response
Before you vote, here are a few things to consider about the damage Conservatives have already done to Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service.
Wholetime Firefighters have been cut by over a quarter, which means greater reliance on Retained (On Call) Firefighters. They are not always available, and their numbers have also dropped by 14% over the last ten years. That means:
You are likely to wait longer for help to arrive as response times have been increasing, especially in rural areas.
When a fire engine arrives it is more likely that it will not have enough firefighters onboard to take effective action.
If you are lucky, that fire engine may be a fully equipped one.
If you are not lucky, it will be one with a reduced amount of water and equipment.
If you are really unlucky, it will be one that has a greatly reduced amount of water and equipment.
Does that postcode lottery make a difference? Not if it is a very minor incident, but if it is more serious, or lives are at risk, it can make the difference between a rescue and a life or lives being lost, and between a property being saved and a property being destroyed.
Significant cuts expose Plymouth residents to greater danger
Just look at how things have changed in Plymouth. Two fire engines used to arrive at property fires in most of Plymouth within five minutes. Now, with the exception of locations near Greenbank fire station, at best one may arrive in five minutes but the second will have to travel further and will take longer.
The effect of the latest Conservative Cuts
The fire station at Budleigh Salterton has been closed and a total of nine frontline fire engines have been removed from the two counties.
When a third fire engine is required for a second or larger incident, in Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay or Yeovil, it takes longer as it must travel from another town.
When a second fire engine is required for a second or larger incident, in Crediton, Lynton, Martock or Totnes, it takes longer as it must travel from another town.
Many other fire stations that have two fire engines are only able to crew one of them during the day. Some fire stations struggle to crew just one fire engine.
More Conservative cuts to come?
The public made clear that they did not want fire stations at Appledore, Ashburton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock and Woolacombe to close. Fortunately, they did not close this year, but the Conservatives have not given any assurance that they are safe. They said they "will be subject to periodic review", which means the axe is still hanging over them.
There is also no assurance that 24x7 protection by Wholetime Firefighters at Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton is guaranteed. Plans for a less reliable and slower response in those areas are still a threat.
Nationally and locally the Conservatives have been happy to put the public and firefighters in greater danger with fewer fire stations, fire engines and firefighters. Their plans already indicate that, if they remain in control, things will only get worse.
Our Fire & Rescue Service is not safe in Conservative hands