Sussex PCC fire service takeover bid opposed

Firefighters (generic)
Image caption West Sussex County Council said it already had an "excellent model"

Plans set out by the Sussex police and crime commissioner (PCC) to take responsibility for fire services in East and West Sussex - and potentially merge them - have met with opposition.

The move is part of national fire service reforms unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May last week.

Sussex PCC Katy Bourne said emergency services would have an increased duty to collaborate under the new bill.

But West Sussex County Council (WSCC) said it already had an excellent model.

East Sussex's fire authority said it would co-operate with the PCC but it believed collaboration could be achieved without elaborate structural change.

Ms Bourne said she had written to WSCC leader Louise Goldsmith and Phil Howson, East Sussex Fire Authority chairman, to request they begin to look at the feasibility of bringing both fire services under her authority.

"Just as we have one police force that effectively manages the county, we need to understand if one fire service not two could achieve the same," she said.

Ms Bourne's letter met with cross-party opposition from WSCC.

And Ms Goldsmith also invited the home secretary to visit West Sussex and see an alternative to the government's preferred plan.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A Hawker Hunter jet plummeted on to the A27 last August during the Shoreham Airshow, killing 11 people

Ms Goldsmith said West Sussex fire service was already integrated within the council and served communities.

She added last year's Shoreham air disaster showed how West Sussex emergency services already worked together.

East Sussex Fire Authority said it was willing to co-operate with the PCC to determine whether proposals could improve delivery of services and create efficiencies.

In a statement, it added: "[The fire authority] believes whilst close collaboration between the emergency services is essential, it can be achieved without elaborate structural change.

"It is also the fire authority's considered view that it is more accountable to the community it serves because its members are elected councillors."

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