Councillors ‘call-in’ fire service proposal before consultation is launched
A rethink has been ordered for plans to cut fire crew sizes and replace fire engines with 4×4 vehicles.
Liberal Democrat councillors have asked that the draft Integrated Risk Management Plan be “called in” before a 12-week public consultation on the future of the Fire Service in Hertfordshire starts on December 28
The draft proposals – which include replacing traditional fire engines with “rapid” or “intermediate” response vehicles, reducing crew sizes and looking at the relocation of fire stations – have already been backed by the county council’s Cabinet.
But, after the exceptional step by the Lib Dems, the decision – and the decision making – will be examined by a special meeting of the county council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Cllr Barbara Gibson, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on community safety issues, is one of the five councillors who triggered the call-in process.
She said her party may ultimately agree with the proposals, but that there is not enough detail in the draft IRMP for proper decision making.
The Liberal Democrats believe a review is necessary because there are specific pieces of information that should be included.
Concerns were first raised at the community safety and waste management panel last month, but not flagged up at the subsequent meeting of the Cabinet.
“We feel the document itself is not fit for purpose – not necessarily the proposals, but that the document doesn’t provide a full risk assessment,” Cllr Gibson said.
“It doesn’t provide the detail that helps you to see how the proposals link to the risks in Hertfordshire.
“I don’t doubt for a moment that the Fire Service has all this information. I am confident they are basing their proposals on really good information, but that good information should be in the IRMP document.”
Cllr Gibson said that, rather than using the call-in process to obstruct something they disagree with, they want to ensure the county council is doing the right thing for the people of Hertfordshire.
Ultimately, she hopes it will lead to the draft IRMP being revised or amended to include greater detail before it goes out to consultation.
“Being in opposition isn’t just about feet stomping and making political points,” she said. “It’s helping the party in power to make better decisions.”
A response from the Cabinet to the call-in, included in the overview and scrutiny reports, says the draft IRMP reflects the changing nature of the risks it identifies for the coming years.
It says many of the variables are undefined, such as the sale of the new development at Gilston, the number of buildings there with sprinklers and the road network around it.
It also stresses that the process will be subject to further review through the political process after the consultation is complete.
At this stage, it says, the emphasis is on encouraging public and staff to provide their views.
It states: “The decision to publish the draft IRMP for public consultation is the start of the process of its public development, not the end.
“The consultation phase provides opportunity to all stakeholders to provide their views which will be considered in developing the final plan.
“The agreement to publish the IRMP for public consultation was taken on that basis.”
The specially convened meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee will be held on December 11.
This article originally appeared on Watford Observer
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