At last night’s Isle of Wight council Scrutiny Committee (catch up with our live coverage), members voted to make a recommendation that the Cabinet defer their decision on the review of the fire service until their April meeting.
Cabinet members are due to consider the proposals this Thursday, but Leader of the Isle of Wight council, Cllr Dave Stewart, made clear at the Scrutiny meeting that he was happy to defer the decision until their April meeting.
Vital missing papers
The delay was the result of an important Appendix being omitted when the papers were issued last week. It was argued by Cllr Geoff Brodie that members of the committee and public had not been given enough time to scrutinise the proposals.
Cllr Stewart said,
“Whatever the cause I do believe that this Scrutiny Committee and the Cabinet should have sufficient time, not only to read the paper, but to discuss the paper.”
He went on to say,
“We as a Cabinet would be comfortable with this matter being deferred until April.
“I say April because there is another paper coming forward at full council – which is the right place for that paper – which is a whole discussion around our engagement with Hampshire. I’m trying to avoid the two being unnecessarily entwined, because I think that one, which will have a public consultation, is a very important aspect.”
Call for public information event
Cllr Brodie proposed a recommendation for the Cabinet, saying,
“Realistically I know I’m not going to get a public consultation out of you in a million years, so what I want to propose is what I think is a bit of a compromise.
“In the light of increasing public concern, the Scrutiny Committee recommends that there is a public information exercise on the proposal recommendations of the fire service review before the April Cabinet meeting.”
He went on to say,
“People need to be made aware, we have a much beefier media and communications team, so maybe they could do that.”
Consider all options?
Cllr Peacey Wilcox argued that they should be considering all the options, not just the recommendation.
However, Cllr Brodie believed that would be thrown out and indicated it would be better to propose something that could be agreed by the Cabinet and ensure more information is out in the public before the Cabinet make their decision.
The proposed changes
The proposals are looking to reduce the number of crew riding on a shout from five to four, as well as reduce the number of wholetime nightime firefighters from seven to four.
Firefighters say that would mean during the night – when fires can be more serious than during the day because they take longer to spot and what happens in the first ten minutes crucial – there will only be four wholetime crew covering the entire Island.
Moving goal posts
It was made very clear by Pete Mawhood of the FBU last night that although the language provided throughout this process led them to believe there would be a 12 week public consultation, however, one month ago he was informed it would drop to six weeks.
Then on Monday he hear there would be no public consultation and it would be a Cabinet decision – not full council. Full details can be read from our live coverage of the meeting.
You can read how the firefighters feel about the plans in their open letter to all councillors.