LYNTON & LYNMOUTH TOWN COUNCIL
Town Mayor: Cllr Chris Sleep Q
8 August 2019
RE: DSFRS Safer Together Campaign
I write as Mayor of Lynton and Lynmouth Town Council following a mass public meeting in Lynton Town Hall last evening at which there was significant public concern and dismay.
Firstly, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service declined an invitation from this Town Council to attend either our Council meeting or the Public Meeting convened to consider the proposals. This is considered unacceptable and a poor response from public servants. Secondly, both meetings expressed surprise at the quite startling manner of [alleged] consultation and frankly, dangerous proposed cuts to emergency fire services.
It was agreed that we need a clear unambiguous, statistically valid, view of emergency fire provision for Lynton and Lynmouth, but also for the broader Devon and Somerset area. The basic level of data utilised fails to properly acknowledge issues of rural isolation, sparsity factors, exponential seasonal population increases and woeful transportation links for our communities.
You are included in this conversation as one of several key decision makers.
This letter will also be sent to our MP, County Councillors, HMICPF&RS, DSFRS chief officer and Fire Authority members, explaining our views, and asking for personal representation from them so this community can explain the salient issues directly to them in our next public forum.
Key points I wish to raise with you are:
The report generated by DSFRS is simplistic in its use of measures, assuming that all stations act independently serving only their area. We all know it is operated as a co-ordinated network of contiguous stations, and you even say so in the “Our Response Strategy” section. This grossly under represents the number of calls responded to, as does the reporting protocol which only counts the first two responding appliances, and then only if they are from the area covered by that station.
Similarly, proposed escalating cuts to appliances and stations ignore the unusual nature of our remote location and hilly moorland, narrow paths and lanes, and predominance of older properties.
Closing stations such as Porlock and removing the large 4 wheel drive vehicle from Lynton both of which are key to early control of moorland fires, which will only increase as summers get hotter, is an underlying failing of the proposal.
Similarly the ‘back-up’ network is totally undermined in this north-eastern corner of Devon linked to Somerset by Exmoor, when proposed changes to other fire and rescue resources in the area are considered. These cuts are akin to Beechings’ destruction of local railways in this area but with significantly greater risk to life and property.
The data also assumes the risk from fires and RTCs has decreased, whereas figures for Devon and Somerset actually demonstrate:
Fire deaths increased last year - 11 fatalities 2018, 8 fatalities 2017.
RTC deaths increased last year - 35 fatalities 2018, 28 fatalities 2017.
The proposed cuts just ignore the reality of how stretched resources are, the unusual terrain and features of the West Country landscape and roads and the actual work done by the fire stations and their staff. The report is grossly misleading, and ignores the majority of work done by our community fire fighters.
Cost reduction appears to have over-ridden consideration for the level of risk to life and property, especially in rural settlements.
Travel times are fictitious and show no regard for seasonal peaks where communities regularly increase by several multiples for at least two thirds of the year.
Where is the rurality factor built in to this proposal? Rural sparsity is not reflected in the plan which concentrates on closely linked and urban areas to the detriment and enhanced risk of isolated communities far from travel hubs or roving response teams.
There will be a considerable rise in community risk to all settlements in or adjacent to Exmoor National Park with every option [sic] as they start with closure of Porlock Fire Station and just get worse with each iteration.
When these proposals are considered alongside reductions in provision of emergency Ambulance and Police resources this isolated rural community and most of Exmoor National Park is in significant public service deficit, yet remains in the top five most expensive parishes for Council tax per property within this District.
Lynton & Lynmouth as a community contribute more than is required through Council Tax to run our fire station. How can this isolated rural community therefore be left with a greater risk to life and property from this exercise than the contribution they make to the provision of local fire cover?
We need to review and improve our services, not cut them, to meet the risks faced by our population and visitors.
I trust the tone of my correspondence indicates the sense of disquiet the proposals have generated in Lynton and Lynmouth and especially the failure of Fire Officers to engage with the community in a meaningful and proper manner.
Anxiety levels are high and this has brought the community together in a strong bond which Council feel you should experience in person.
We urge you to make significant changes to the proposed cuts in service to meet a budget requirement and leave this community with a proper balance of operational resources on the ground. Cost cutting solutions should be considered in reduced higher management/support staff costs or technological improvements to achieve the cost reductions rather than increased personal and property risk for this community.
Councillor Chris Sleep
Telephone:01598 752384 E Mail: email@example.com
Web site: www.lyntonandlynmouthtowncouncil.gov.uk
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