Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 11th November 2015

It’s too easy to forget that the Fire Service is there, yet we go about our lives knowing if the worst happens there’s always someone there who will pull us out of a burning building, cut us from a wrecked car or tackle that rare emergency we wouldn’t dare approach.

The times we need a fireman are few but they’re the times we’re most in need. With everything they’ll bravely do on our behalf, supporting them when they need our help is the least we can do.

For as long as I’ve been a county councillor Labour councillors have pressed the case of the county’s Fire Service. We’ve opposed the loss of firemen, engines and even stations in wave after wave of cuts.

This is a core service, it shouldn’t have to be political, it’s something everyone depends upon, it’s something everyone should want to support. Yet, the Tories in Chichester seem unwilling to consider the long-term implications of cutting the Fire Service.

Money is in short supply for councils, as the Leader in Crawley I certainly appreciate that. I oppose endless borrowing, that’s why I voted against the county’s last capital programme. That’s why I never propose new spending without identifying how to fund it.

It’s staggering that in the midst of county’s borrowing spree, Labour’s funded proposal for replacing Crawley Fire Station, providing a modern station on a better site, was rejected. Not a single Crawley Tory supported it.

A modern station would cost less than the last design they worked up. Between the abandoned site in Horley and the existing Crawley site land receipts would cover most of the cost. Redirect the money currently going towards improvements for the existing station, include Crawley Borough Council’s offer of free land and the savings provided by a more efficient building and all the costs are covered.

Building the new fire station seems like an easy choice. Yet while the Tories will sign off on subsidised fast broadband for financial services in Chichester, a self-funded scheme to provide Crawley with the modern fire station it needs simply isn’t their priority.

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