A Ventnor town councillor has slammed the Isle of Wight council Cabinet Member responsible for the failed Cabinet paper setting out the revamp of the Island’s Fire and Rescue Service.
Last month, the paper – presented by Cllr Gary Peace (Conservative IW councillor for Ventnor West) – proposing a revamp of the fire service was almost unanimously rejected by his own Cabinet, with the Leader of the Isle of Wight council, Cllr Dave Stewart, saying he could not vote for the revised paper because it “does not adequately provide the information”.
Blackmore: Cabinet member “out of his depth”
Following the meeting, Cllr Stewart Blackmore – a town councillor in Ventnor – told OnTheWight,
“Councillor Gary Peace has had a rapid elevation to the Isle of Wight Council Cabinet, having had no previous experience as a councillor, so it may not be surprising that this inexperience manifested itself during the recent Scrutiny committee meeting and again at the meeting of the Cabinet.
“During questions from members of the Scrutiny committee it became very clear that the paper which bore his signature was completely inadequate and Cllr Geoff Brodie was quick to highlight those inadequacies when asking questions of Cllr Peace.”
Cllr Blackmore claimed the Cabinet member “appeared to be completely out of his depth”.
Blackmore: Cllr Peace “should be reviewing his position”
“This farce was then continued at the Cabinet meeting at which, we all thought, the paper would be rubber-stamped despite the many objections to it. That was certainly the position which was being promoted within County Hall.
“To everyone’s surprise the Leader of the Council, Cllr Dave Stewart, rubbished the document publicly and called for a vote for it to be kicked into the long grass, possibly to be resurrected next October!
“This is incompetence at the highest level – which is why Councillor Peace should, at the very least, be reviewing his position, as should the two lead officers from the Hampshire Fire Service. Indeed I would go further in saying that Councillor Peace should be removed from his position after authoring this shoddy report.
“I also cannot understand why, if this report was so seriously flawed, it was not simply withdrawn before the Cabinet meeting. As I said before, the whole thing was a farce and reeks of incompetence.”
Cllr Peace: Blackmore “playing politics”
OnTheWight contacted Cllr Peace asking how he would would defend his position given that all but one of the Cabinet refused to approve the paper he put his name to.
“Cllr Blackmore is wrong and is simply trying to play politics with the safety of Island residents and firefighters.”
He went on to say,
“There were a great number of opinions expressed during the review period, all of which have been taken into account. Some of those opinions however were not based on fact or risk but were based on emotion and fear and some were political in nature.
“There is also a resistance to organisational change by some. As a result of all this, there was a huge amount of lobbying of members and indeed my own Cabinet. And all of that is to be expected, with such an emotive issue.”
He finished by saying,
“It is important to note that even though the Cabinet rejected the “paper”, a number of proposals were accepted by Cabinet. The result being, that the planning aspect to implement changes can proceed, with a review point set for six months time.
“This planning aspect will include a full consultation over shift patterns with the workforce, no loss of staff and no closure of fire stations and it also enables the IWFRS to move to a three-locality model as proposed.”