Tory-run West Sussex County Council is in crisis. Mere weeks after the Ofsted inspection that rated its children and young people’s services as inadequate, a further external government inspection has rated West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service “needs improvement” for Efficiency, “needs improvement” for Effectiveness and “inadequate” for People. It is also the only service in the country not to get a “good” rating in any category.
These examples show clearly how constant cuts by the Tory County Council have failed to keep your services to an acceptable standard. This time, one responsible for protecting the entirety of West Sussex, and it is yet another hammer blow to the council’s reputation.
While Labour councillors remain hugely supportive of our Fire and Rescue Service, there are findings in this report that the political leadership and senior executives at the county council must take responsibility for.
The continual cutbacks of the service by successive Tory budgets have inevitably taken their toll, and if this has resulted in tensions rising and bullying, we will be looking to see what long overdue action the council will be taking to address it.
The West Sussex Tories pushed through all the cuts to the service despite constant protests from Labour. They ignored a petition signed by 3,500 West Sussex residents protesting against the cuts. They claimed we were all exaggerating the risks, but it is clear we were right all along.
Tory Council Leader Louise Goldsmith has also stood by while the Fire Service has suffered, yet even now she has yet to write to Government protesting about its unfair and unequal funding, despite a large majority of the council supporting a Labour motion calling on her to do so over six months ago.
The council needs to have a full debate, as the report raises important issues of performance and about ill-conceived cuts. We owe our residents this because their safety and welfare is a fundamental County Council duty.
That is why the Labour Group have submitted a motion to the next full county council meeting, so all councillors can get some answers from the Tory leadership.
Cllr Michael Jones
Leader, WSCC Labour group