Agenda item


To consider a petition regarding fire appliances in Surrey, which received 13,048 signatures via the Councils e-petition facility.


The petition states:


“We the undersigned petition Surrey County Council to demand Surrey County Council scrap their plans to leave 7 major fire appliances un-crewed at night.”



The petition regarding Surrey County Council’s plans to leave seven major fire appliances un-crewed at night had received 13,048 signatures via the Council’s e-petition facility and on behalf of the lead petitioner Mr Paul Couchman, Mr Lee Belsten from the Fire Brigades Union and Save Our Services in Surrey, was invited to address the meeting.


He made the following points:


  • Asked the Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience to explain why the petition was dismissed as having a ‘narrow focus’.
  • The petition was not ‘out of context’ as it was based on question six of the consultation which stated ‘to what extent do you disagree/agree with the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service maintain the number of fire stations and fire engines in Surrey but changing how Banstead, Egham, Camberley are crewed at night?’. To which only 18% of the 1687 respondents agreed with the question.
  • Not one on-call fire engine could consistently achieve the response standard that the Cabinet Member had outlined previously. The current average across all on-call fire stations was 49% compared to the targeted response standard of 80%.
  • The low response figures was due to many on-call firefighters being mobilised from their homes which took an average of 6-8 minutes to get to stations before deployment.
  • The average response standard was 75% across the County based on twenty wholetime fire engines, two variably crewed fire engines and up to ten on-call fire engines. The response standard could not be maintained nor improved with seven less fire appliances and the plans would not make Surrey safer.


In addition to the Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience’s response in the supplementary agenda, she made the following comments:


  • Thanked Mr Couchman and Mr Belsten for the petition.
  • Praised the work of the cross-party Surrey Fire and Rescue Service Transformation Working Group and the Communities, Environment and Highways Select Committee on the Making Surrey Safer Plan – the Council’s Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) which was approved by Cabinet
  • The petition focussed on a small part of plan, not taking into consideration the increase in community and business safety activities through ensuring live saving prevention work.
  • As the fire authority, the Council was required by law to produce an IRMP, the last was published in 2016 and risks have since changed. Surrey’s roads were carrying double the national average of traffic, there was an increased risk of flooding, an ageing population, drug and alcohol dependency and around 85,000 premises were covered by Surrey’s fire legislation - including care homes.
  • The new risks were included in the Community Risk Profile (CRP) based on ten years of predicted and five years of current data, towards a more accurate model of risks within the Making Surrey Safer Plan. The CRP was externally and rigorously verified by the National Fire Chief’s Council through an assurance panel with a wide range of stakeholders and organisations.
  • The Council removed £6 million of savings targets in autumn 2018, following the appointment of Surrey’s Chief Fire Officer to re-model the service and to address the findings of the 2018 HMICFRS inspection to meet new legislation following the Grenfell tragedy and to work on prevention and protection.
  • Approximately £1 million of additional funding was provided by the Council to support the transformation of the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.
  • A twelve-week public consultation on the service which ended in May 2019 and of the 1,800 respondents many were broadly supportive of the proposals.
  • The Council would maintain and meet the response standard, with the first appliance responding to incidents within ten minutes and the second within fifteen minutes for 80% of the time.
  • Resources were re-aligned to cover greater risks in the day-time, shifting capacity from the night-time and Surrey’s current fire stations would be maintained. Detailed modelling showed that twenty fire engines were needed in the day and sixteen at night; instead the Council would have twenty-five in the day, thirty on weekend days and twenty-three at night.
  • Crew availability would be increased at Haslemere and Walton, cover would be changed at Camberley, Fordbridge, Guildford and Woking to one appliance at night from two. Egham, Banstead and Painshill where cover would come from a neighbouring station.
  • An increased number of on-call firefighters would be achieved through enlarging the qualifying catchment area and making the role more accessible. Some incidents would be charged for, such as false fire alarms and animal incidents.
  • New work practices, continuingly evolving technology and increased training since March 2019, saw improved day-time response rates by fifty to sixty-four seconds and night-time responses by fifty-five to eighty-eight seconds. Lastly, 82 new firefighters had been employed since September 2018.
  • Urged the Council to support the recommendation as follows [can you add it in here please].


Members made the following points:


  • Greater public safety information was welcomed but would not mitigate the risks of having reduced cover and many residents were not broadly supportive of the reduction.
  • If the changes were not financially driven, the Council should listen to the firefighters and professionals on the frontline, - as Members were not experts on fire matters - that increasing the response time after an emergency and the reduction in fire appliances would increase the risks to lives.
  • The Council was not dismissive of residents’ concerns and it must note the HMICFRS report in 2018 which outlined concerns over the ability of the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service in keeping people safe and the efficient use of its resources.
  • The Surrey Fire and Rescue Service Transformation Working Group noted the decline by a third in the number of firefighters since 2011 and produce a unanimously agreed report recommending that more firefighters were recruited by 2020 and performance would be rigorously monitored.
  • The removal of the seven fire appliances would be a saving of £2 million and it was queried where that money would be spent.
  • Removing those fire appliances would increase the time it would take to respond to the average fire in Surrey, increasing the risks to lives and the damage caused. A Member asked that the ratio between prevention time and risks be quantified.


In accordance with Standing Order 28.1, Mr Robert Evans requested a recorded vote to be taken on the recommendation within the Cabinet Member’s response to the petition. The Chairman agreed to Mr Evans’ request.


The following Members voted for it:


Mrs Angell, Ms Azad, Mrs Bramhall, Mr Brett-Warburton, Mr Carasco, Dr Chapman, Mrs Clack, Mrs Curran, Mr Deach, Mr Tim Evans, Mr Few, Mr Furniss, Mr Goodman, Dr Grant-Duff, Mr Gulati, Mr Hall, Mrs Hammond, Mr Harmer, Mr Harris, Mr Hawkins, Miss Heath, Mr Hussain, Mrs Iles, Mr Islam, Mr Kemp, Mr Knight, Rachael I. Lake, Mrs Lay, Mrs Lewis, Mr McIntosh, Mr Mansfield, Mr Martin, Mrs Mooney, Ms Morley, Mrs Muir, Mr Nuti, Mr Oliver, Mr O’Reilly, Dr Povey, Mr Ramsdale, Mr Samuels, Mrs Steeds, Mr Taylor, Ms Thomson, Ms Turner-Stewart, Mr Walsh, Mr Witham.

And the following Members voted against it:

Mr Bennison, Mr Cooksey, Mr Essex, Mr Robert Evans, Mr Forster, Mr Goodwin, Mrs Goodwin, Mr Harrison, Mr Lee, Mr MacLeod, Mr Mallett, Mrs Mason, Mr Spence, Mr Townsend, Mrs Watson.

The following Members abstained:


Mr Botten, Mr Darby, Mr Gardner, Mr Kington.


Therefore the recommendation was supported by 47 votes to 15 against, 4 abstentions.


That the Council noted that Cabinet approved the Making Surrey Safer Plan and that Members would continue working with the Fire and Rescue Service during its implementation.


Supporting documents: