Despite the best efforts of the Opposition Parties at the Suffolk County Council meeting of 17th March 2016 life threatening cuts to the Fire and Rescue Services are still on the Conservative administration’s agenda.
The motion to rule out these changes – put forward by Lib Dem Leader David Wood and seconded by the Leader of the Labour Group – was narrowly defeated by 36 votes to 35 at yesterdays Council Meeting.
Earlier, the Portfolio Holder Cllr Matthew Hicks had refused the FBU petition calling for the cuts to be the subject of a decision and debate by full council, despite a impassioned speech by the Fire Brigades Union rep Steve Hayward. (A speech that bought a standing ovation from opposition councillors ; sadly the Conservatives sat on their hands).
In a debate lasting 2 hours many worthwhile and important points were raised by opposition councillors as to why these cuts should not take place and why the safety of the people of Suffolk should come first. Time and time again, the Conservatives kept insisting that they were waiting for the results of the consultation to be made public before any decision is made.
But who will make that decision – the Cabinet and to quote the Public Protection Portfolio Holder Cllr Matthew Hicks “It Is important for the council to balance its books so the Fire Service must play its part”. Hence the reason for our motion, to let all of the elected representatives have their say on your Fire Service and its future.
During a passionate summing up Cllr David Wood referred to the extra money the council had been granted from the government from its rural sparsity fund ( a nice round £6.8m over the next 2 years), asking “Instead of putting it into reserves, shouldn’t a proportion of that be used to save these cuts? after all it does belong to the taxpayers of Suffolk!”
(Apropos of this, Cllr Wood was asked to withdraw his description of senior Conservative Cllr Guy McGregor stating “lets not waste money“. In the interests of keeping the meeting going he did so – however, if you listen to the Suffolk County Webcast do be sure to listen carefully to the Councillor, and especially his closing words.)
We may have lost the first round but the fight will continue to make sure the residents have a Fire Service that is fit for purpose.
Leader Lib Dem & Independent Party