01 February 2019
A merger between West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service (WSFRS) and Surrey came one step closer after a scrutiny committee supported the plans, which are expected to save West Sussex £1.7m between 2020 and 2022.
The county council’s environment, health and fire select committee heard from chief fire officer Gavin Watts and assistant CFO Neil Stocker, who advised members of the benefits of an arrangement with Surrey.
Neil Stocker told them the move would make WSFRS "more efficient" and added that Surrey also had access to state-of-the-art technology which West Sussex did not, including more up-to-date data accessible in fire engine cabs, and access to CCTV data and highways cameras.
Surrey fire service had previously managed fire control for the Isle of Wight and had a process in place to get West Sussex on board.
An initial investment of £934,000, will be required for the merger, however it is expected that annual savings of £855,000 will be made.
Councillor Michael Jones queried Surrey's call handling times, which appeared to be slowed than West Sussex's. Jonathan Lacey from WSFRS said that was due to Surrey operatives taking time on calls to prepare firefighters, and question whether they need to be deployed, for example to automatic fire alarms.
This resulted in slower call handling times but faster response times to emergencies, he added
Councillors had considered 20 options including re-establishing an in-house service, but the Surrey merger came out top. The current arrangement officially ends in February 2020, so the new control system must be operational by then.