Lowestoft firefighters hope public opposition will defeat proposed cuts
Campaigners have said they hope strong opposition to cuts to the area's fire and rescue service demonstrated at a series of public meetings will overcome the proposals.
More than 100 residents packed out Wrentham Village Hall to voice their concerns at closing the small rural fire station, while about 80 people turned out at a similar consultation event at Waveney District Council’s Riverside offices a few days later.
Suffolk chief fire officer Mark Hardingham and Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and protection, told those gathered how the service had to make £1.3m savings from its £22m budget by 2017.
Mr Hardingham said both Lowestoft South and Reydon fire stations had relocated closer to Wrentham in recent years, meaning the village would be 10 minutes away from the nearest station.
He added: “Lowestoft has got four fire engines.
“When you look at the set of circumstances here balanced across the rest of the service, I think we can remove one of four fire engines and still maintain a good level of cover in the town.”
But those attending the meeting almost universally disagreed, with Becky Bezant, 24, of south Lowestoft, saying: “Cuts cost lives. It’s so scary to think that anyone – your loved ones – could be in danger through this.
“I understand they’ve got to save money but what they’re proposing seems quite ruthless.”
Ian Johnson, 71, of Rissemere Lane, Reydon – a retained firefighter at Southwold for 17 years – said: “Everything is based on statistics and cost, but you can’t put a cost on the lack of reassurance to the community.”
Phil Johnston, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Lowestoft branch, said: “The public have definitely showed their feelings. I think the chief and the councillor were quite surprised by the response.
“They can’t be let off the hook. Ultimately this is a political decision that has been government-led.
“The government found billions to bail out the banks. The whole fire service costs a fraction of that.
“It is a political will as much as anything. We hope the public response will overcome that.”
What do you think about the proposed fire service cuts? Send an email, giving your full contact details, to EDPLetters@archant.co.uk