1. ITV Report

Decision to move East Sussex fire control centre will 'put lives at risk'

The control centre which deals with 999 calls across East Sussex is to move out of the county.

Unions say it is a cost-cutting measure which will compromise safety but the fire service says it will create a more joined-up approach.

The controversial decision was made behind closed doors at a meeting of the fire service on Thursday, reducing some of the staff involved to tears.

The chairman used his casting vote to exclude the press and the public, on the grounds that some of the financial information being discussed was confidential.

One of the main concerns from our staff is the lack of local knowledge that will be taken away from Sussex, East Sussex in particular, up to Surrey. There have been numerous occurrences already of mobilisation of pumps to the wrong addresses. Without the knowledge of the staff up there these are potentially life-threatening situations."

– Steve Oakman, East Sussex Fire Brigades Union

Under the plans, the control centre for East Sussex Fire & Rescue will join the West Sussex control centre, which is shared with Surrey Fire & Rescue in Salfords near Redhill.

It is currently based in Haywards Heath which is approximately 20 miles away from the new site.

The decision was made at a meeting of the fire service on Thursday Credit: ITV News Meridian

The fire service aims to answer emergency calls within five seconds and mobilise crews within 2 minutes.

is the number of incidents the control centre in East Sussex deals with every year

It says it has some of the best response times in the country and intends to maintain them.

We wouldn't be recommending anything to the authority that was going to impact on public safety. In fact our view is that this will improve public safety because it will allow us to make sure that we've got the right resources that respond to incidents as quickly as possible. The benefit of being in a single control room with shared resources and shared control systems means that we can make sure that happens.

– Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark O'Brien, East Sussex Fire & Rescue
Credit: ITV News Meridian

Staff had put forward an alternative plan to establish a new stand-alone control centre for East Sussex, within the county, at the headquarters the fire service already shares with Sussex Police.

However, that was voted against as being too expensive.

The move will take place in the spring of 2021.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is proactively engaging with control room staff and their trade unions, seeking to resolve a trade dispute with the FBU concerning crewing levels in the Joint Fire Control for Surrey and West Sussex.

"Surrey Fire and Rescue Service strongly believed that it had finalised an acceptable proposal with the FBU on 23 December 2019 on all the points they had raised regarding Joint Fire Control. It is therefore disappointing that the FBU have now notified Surrey FRS that their proposal will not be agreed, further talks are planned for next week.

"Both East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service are assured that Surrey Fire and Rescue Service will continue to work hard to resolve this position, and once this has happened, detailed discussions can begin around future crewing required to provide a mobilising service for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

"We would like to reassure residents that there have been no reports of any safety critical delays to response times to any emergency. The welfare of all the Joint Fire Control staff is a priority for everyone involved.

"East Sussex and West Sussex are confident that Surrey will provide a resilient and reliable mobilising service, appropriately staffed, providing better value for the taxpayers of the three counties and providing more opportunities for common ways of working and operational benefits."

– Joint Statement, East Sussex, West Sussex & Surrey Fire & Rescue Service