Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

October 31, 2011 07:11 ET

Fire Union Challenges Strong Over Claims There Was 'Long and Hard Debate' Over Cumbria Fire Control Axe

CUMBRIA, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Oct. 31, 2011) - The Fire Brigades Union has challenged Cumbria County Councillor Gavin Strong's claims there was a "long and hard" debate before a decision was made to axe the county's fire control centre. The union says full public consultation did not happen, there has been no debate by the full fire authority, staff were 'gagged' before the decision at Cabinet and the public and press excluded when key financial information was discussed at Cabinet.

In a press release last week Gary Strong, Cabinet Member for Community Safety & Local Services claimed: "It is particularly disappointing that the decision of the council's Scrutiny Advisory Board was so clearly misrepresented in Parliament. We have made the offer to all Cumbrian MPs to come and talk to us about the plans but only one has got in touch to speak to us direct. We have now debated this issue long and hard and I am absolutely confident that it is the right decision for Cumbria. I hope that we can move forward with the project."

The FBU says staff were only given a week's notice before the axe plan was put to the Cabinet. Until that stage the proposal was for Cumbria and Cheshire fire service controls to share technology and provide back up for each other, not to close Cumbria's control.

Prior to the issue going to Cabinet, control staff were instructed not speak to the media about the plans under threat of disciplinary action. The part of the Cabinet Paper which was made public makes clear there was no consultation prior to the Cabinet decision being made.

No full public consultation has ever been launched.

Ade Kevern FBU Brigade secretary said: "Councillor Strong is giving a highly misleading impression. A decision of this magnitude needs full public consultation before a decision is taken and that has not happened.

"The very short time frame from the axe plan being made and it being adopted makes a nonsense of claims of their being any long and hard debate, let alone one in which the public are involved. The full fire authority – the county council – has never debated the matter. And staff were gagged from talking to the media about the plans in advance of the Cabinet decision.

"I find it ridiculous to attack our local MPs in this way. There are none we have spoken to that knew much about the closure plans, an interim move to Cheshire in June 2012 and then on to a regional control if that ever happens in 2014.

"The public will find it laughable that the county council wants to talk to MPs about the plan after the decision has been made. We applaud the fact MPs have raised this in Parliament and confirmed Government funding of £1.8 million is available to upgrade our existing control.

"Our MPs are speaking up for Cumbria and have confirmed a real financial commitment from Government. We want our county council to do the same and ditch these awful plans."

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