petition

WOKING’S firefighters are urging the public to sign a petition to halt plans which would see one fire engine with a crew of just four covering the borough at night.

They are also asking people to lobby their councillors and MP as part of a campaign against a reduction in night-time fire service cover across the county.

Local firefighters are worried that proposed cuts will lead to an increase in preventable deaths and injuries

The cuts are detailed in a Surrey Fire and Rescue Service proposal which would see seven whole-time appliances left un-crewed between 7am and 7pm. During this time, 23 engines would be available instead of the current 30.

The reorganisation – called Making Surrey Safer – plans for Woking, Guildford, Camberley and Spelthorne stations to each lose one of their two engines and single-appliance stations Egham, Painshill and Banstead to close completely at night.

The Surrey branch of the Fire Brigades Union is leading the campaign against the cuts, which it says will cause more preventable deaths and injuries and increase the time it takes to get fire crews to incidents.

“There may be fewer house fires than in the past, but 74% of all deaths in fires occur at night, when we need to maintain our cover for that reason alone,” the union’s Woking representative, Graham Whitfield, told the News & Mail.

“We are inviting councillors to come and meet us to find out why we think the cuts will be dangerous, for the public and firefighters.

“We are the troops on the ground and have to deal with members of the public when there is an emergency. If the councillors knew exactly what we do at incidents, then they might change their minds about the cuts.”

He asked the public to visit the station’s Facebook page to find the email addresses of councillors they should lobby and to sign the FBU petition at
https://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/Fire-Cuts/

For the full story get the 18 April edition of the News & Mail

A PETITION to protect Green Belt land in Woking borough from development has been delivered to Parliament and will be sent to James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing. 

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Lynn Cozens, Fiona Syrett, Cllr Amanda Boote, Jonathan Lord and Gary Elson.

The 1,250-signature petition was presented to Woking MP Jonathan Lord, who added his signature.

Byfleet and West Byfleet councillor Amanda Boote, along with local campaigners Fiona Syrett and Lynn Cozens and Gary Elson, deputy chairman of the Byfleet, West Byfleet & Pyrford Residents’ Association, were given special permission by John Bercow to present the petition at the Speakers’ Door.

The petition was organised in reaction to the Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD, approved by Woking Borough Council on 18 October last year.)

Cllr Boote said that the petition and the council’s consultation over the DPD will now go to an independent inspector to make a ruling.

“We will hear if we are successful later in the year,” Cllr Boote said.

For the full story get the 28 February edition of the News & Mail

CUTS - Mohammad Ali (right) could not sway the council's decision

CUTS – Mohammad Ali (right) could not sway the council’s decision

A PETITION to overturn the decision to withdraw funding from the Neighbourhood Advice Centre has been thrown out by Woking Borough Council.

More than 700 signatures were presented to the council by Labour candidate Mohammad Ali at the meeting of the full executive on Thursday.

His plea swayed the opinion of a number of councillors who originally opposed the continued funding of a service that provides integration and administrative support to Woking residents – but the proposal to reverse the decision fell short in the vote.

Councillor Mohammed Iqbal was one of those in favour of funding the NAC with the £40,000 required to keep the service alive.

He dismissed claims that the Citizens Advice Bureau offers a similar service which could be as readily accessed by residents.

Cllr Iqbal said: “There is a genuine need for this service in the community. The Citizens Advice Bureau has put on one-day services but this is not sufficient to accommodate the increase in users of the NAC in the past year.”

Figures show 2,500 residents accessed services at the Maybury Centre-based offices in 2011 – a 500 user increase on the previous year.

The centre has been without funding since the original decision to cut support was made late last year and the NAC has since depleted its reserves just to keep the doors open.

And Mr Ali, who is taking the council to High Court over ‘persistent electoral irregularities’ after missing out on a seat in the May elections, estimates funds will only last another ‘two or three months’.

He said: “With no external funding, we were solely reliant on the council. Without their support there is no other way to fund the service. At the moment we’re operating on reduced opening hours and as a group we now have to hope funding can be generated from other sources.

“Our biggest grief with Woking Borough Council is the hazy criteria they provided us with and insisted we meet for funding to continue. We were told we had to achieve charitable status, receive a quality mark and appoint independent trustees to the board – all of which we did.

“We don’t really understand why a 20-year service is now being closed down without so much as a grace period.”

Chief executive Ray Morgan confirmed the council’s decision was final. He said: “The original decision was entirely a matter of discretion – there was not a consensus that value for money was being achieved.

“Members took the view that other groups currently provide similar services in the area which are free of charge where we are having to fund the NAC.”