As reported during last night’s full council meeting the Isle of Wight Fire & Rescue Service could not cope on its own, a senior cabinet member said.
Councillors were divided over plans to merge the Isle of Wight Fire Authority (which deals with governance rather than day-to-day operations) with Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton at last night’s (Wednesday) full council meeting (catch up in full here).
Twenty councillors voted in favour of merging the service with ten against, and one abstention from Independent councillor, Cllr Debbie Andre.
Ward: Surrey control centre was “Out of this world”
Speaking in favour of the merger, cabinet member for transport Cllr Ian Ward said the Isle of Wight needed the technology a merger would bring — and that the Island would be unable to cope without it.
Cllr Ward said:
“Saying ‘we should move it all back to the Island’ — we couldn’t afford that. We couldn’t produce the fine service that we have, and it’s because of these technological advances.
“No matter how good our staff are, it’s how quickly they get the message and how quickly they get to the incidents.”
Cllr Brodie: FBU “going for least worst evil”
Cllr Geoff Brodie said he believed the FBU did not support the merger, but preferred it “out of two evils”, because they wanted nothing to do with the Police and Crime Commissioner, Michael Lane.
“They’re going for least worst evil.”
He went on to challenge the quality of the consultation which only attracted 48 responses. He said it was as though consultations are deliberately designed to make it hard for people to find.
“It’s about time we started to address that.”
Lilley: “Don’t fit in with mainland services”
However, Ryde councillor, Cllr Michael Lilley, said:
“We are an Island, we do not fit in with mainland services.”
Members also questioned the level of oversight, with concerns raised about how much of a voice the Island would have on the authority’s governing board.
Outlaw: Gives resilience need going forward
Cabinet member for public protection, Cllr Tig Outlaw — who has overseen the plans — said the Isle of Wight would have 11 voices on the panel overseeing the new authority.
“It will still be our service, it will still be Islanders who are in the fire service. Many of them work in their local communities and they understand it and it will still be our service.
“This is right, it protects the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service and it will give the resilience that we need going forward.”
Cllr Barry Abraham (Conservative) said he hoped the badges issued to firefighters would continue to say the ‘Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service’.
Councillors also discussed the recent inspection report that found the service to be safe, but concerns were raised around staff morale.
Final cabinet vote
Following the vote, the proposals have been recommended for approval at next Thursday’s extraordinary cabinet meeting.
The meeting will be held at 5pm at County Hall on Thursday, 24th January 2019.
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some additions by OnTheWight. Ed