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Lib Dems call for immediate Fire Service debate

March 10, 2010 12:00 PM

Cllr. Jerry Roodhouse (Rugby Eastlands & Hillmorton), leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group on Warwickshire County Council, has sent the following open letter today to the Conservative Leader of the Council:

OPEN LETTER

To: Cllr Alan Farnell, Leader of Warwickshire County Council

Copy: Cllr Richard Hobbs, Portfolio Holder for Community Protection

Last July the County Council Cabinet adopted the Chief Fire Officer's proposals as the basis for consulting the residents of Warwickshire over the future of the Fire service in the County. The proposals included the closure of seven fire stations across the County.

You had two months to plan the public consultation that ran for 12 weeks from September to December. Council taxpayer's money was used to hold a series of meetings and run a full consultation exercise to a defined timetable. The consultation questionnaire was criticised widely.

Despite your withholding for far too long the 'secret' background papers to enable a fully informed response to the consultation, members of the public and many stakeholder groups responded magnificently and within the timetable allowed. The volume and detail of these responses should have been no surprise to you, given the importance of the subject and the strong regard in which fire fighters are held in our local communities.

The statement made by Cllr Hobbs at the full Council meeting on 15th December, presumably with your blessing, negated the intended opportunity for elected members to be consulted informally that day, and cancelled the planned full debate and decision by the Council on 9th February.

It is now more than 12 weeks since the consultation closed, and despite repeated questions you and Cllr Hobbs have refused to give any indication as to when elected members will receive a report on the outcome. The excuse of the volume of consultation responses wears thinner and thinner every week, and the concern grows that you are waiting for the General Election to be over before you will reveal your real plans for the future of the fire service in Warwickshire.

This indefinite delay is unacceptable for fire service staff and local communities, who have the axe of closure hanging over them.

We call on you to bring a full report on the future of Warwickshire Fire & Rescue Service to the next meeting of the Council on 30th March, so that it can be debated by elected members in public session. If it is your intention to deny this opportunity for debate, then we call on Councillor Hobbs to tender his resignation as Portfolio Holder forthwith. He made a promise to Warwickshire residents which you are collectively refusing to honour, and his position is therefore untenable.

Yours

Cllr Jerry Roodhouse

Leader of Liberal Democrat Group, Warwickshire County Council