Lobby councillors to oppose fire service cuts, says campaigner

RESIDENTS should lobby their councillors to oppose cuts in fire cover, says the campaigner trying to reverse the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service reorganisation.

Emma Kennedy was given three minutes to present her 6,086-signature petition to Surrey County Council’s cabinet during its online meeting last week.

Writer, actor and campaigner Emma Kennedy is urging residents to lobby their councillors to oppose the Making Surrey Safer reorganisation of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service

The petition opposes the Making Surrey Safer plan, which reduces night-time cover by seven fire engines across the county and has Chobham’s part-time crew available only during evenings, nights and weekends.

“It’s important to have a plan, but don’t be afraid to change a plan when it’s not working,” she told the cabinet. “It’s not a sign of weakness but a sign of strong leadership.”

The major incident on Chobham Common in August had shown Surrey was short of resources, and needed a lot of help from surrounding brigades, said Emma. As the village station was the nearest to the national nature reserve, it was important to keep it open 24 hours.

But the cabinet member who oversees the fire service, Denise Turner-Stewart, insisted that Surrey was being made safer by staff being moved to fire prevention, including stopping wildfires happening. Advanced technology enabled the brigade to respond effectively to incidents.

Emma, an actor and writer who lives in Chobham, accepted Cllr Turner-Stewart’s invitation to join one of the consultation groups being set up to discuss fire service provision in Surrey.

“The upside is they’ve asked me to be involved in consultations with the public, but the nail in the coffin is the green light for the second phase of fire engine cuts,” Emma told the News & Mail. “I would urge residents to write to their councillors impressing upon them to need to maintain our engines and crew.

“We cannot be a county reliant on neighbouring counties to save us by sending their engines when we’re in a pickle because we haven’t got enough manpower or equipment. I hope I managed, at the very least, to impress upon the council the need to maintain Chobham as a 24/7 station and that SFRS shouldn’t be a ‘fingers crossed, hope nothing bad happens’ service.”

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has insisted that Chobham is not a 24-hour station, even though its fire engine is regularly called out when it has a crew available during the day Monday to Friday.

“The only time that Chobham Fire Station are available during weekdays is if individuals make themselves available during that time,” a brigade spokesman told the News & Mail. “On the occasions where weekday availability is currently being provided, this is to the detriment of availability at nights and weekends.”

The spokesman added that the brigade was discussing with the station staff when they would end being available during the day on weekdays.

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