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West Sussex Fire and Rescue aims to cut costs

The public is being asked to comment on a £2.5 million cost-saving plan by West Sussex Fire and Rescue.

Proposals include reductions in support staff and managers and changes to some response arrangements, but there are no plans to close any fire stations. The savings are part of West Sussex County Council’s plans to reduce costs.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue had proposed to save money by merging with East Sussex. Those plans were dropped due to uncertainty over funding, but the two services will merge their control rooms next year.

Cllr Christine Field, county council Cabinet Member for public protection, said: “This is a difficult financial time for public services, so it is even more important that we focus on delivering essential services to the community.

“The Fire and Rescue Service is proposing changes to its ways of working in order to maintain and even improve its services, but at this stage we should stress they are just proposals. The views of the public are particularly important during a consultation, so I would urge as many people as possible to take part before a decision is taken.”

For more information or to comment by September 21, phone 01243 753706, email fire.redesign@westsussex.gov.uk or visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire

The county council is on target to deliver its savings target of £79 million over three years, according to a senior councillor.

Cllr Michael Brown, council Cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “Last year we achieved our savings target down to the very last penny. We are only a few months into the 2012-3 financial year. There is no doubt that we are facing even bigger challenges in the year ahead, but I have every confidence that we will deliver our year two savings in full and will go on to meet our final target.

“While we have had to reduce some services and reshape others, the largest part of our savings package comes from our own efficiencies and new ways of working. It has not been easy and I am grateful for the very hard work of our staff. The future is very uncertain and we would be living in a fool’s paradise if we were to think that government grants are suddenly going to increase again.

“I know some people have asked why we don’t simply spend our reserves maintaining services, but once that money is spent it is gone and the service is either suddenly cut or we have to seek more money from the taxpayer. To find the equivalent of the £18 million general reserve would mean a 4.7 per cent increase in council tax – £54 for every household in West Sussex – something I am sure residents would not want.

“I am quite satisfied we have a sensible level of uncommitted reserves that allow us to have a buffer against emergency situations and to protect taxpayers from a very difficult ongoing financial climate.”

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